Making honey mead for the first time

A few weeks back I was experimenting with rice wine (sake).  I’d call the end result a success, although I’m not sure anyone else would. It was definitely alcoholic, but also carbonated. It was good enough that I’m up for trying it again. I still have a bunch of yeast balls and sticky rice, too.

But first, honey mead! One of my favorite presentations during the Back to Basics Living Summit was Malcolm Saunders‘s video on making honey mead. It looked really easy, so I ordered a 1-gallon jug with airlock and stopper, and some champagne yeast.

I’m going to go ahead and say that, unless you have bees of your own, honey is the most expensive part of this project. You need about 2 pounds of honey per gallon of mead, and that ran about $10 where I live.  (update: that was at Target. My local grocery store had a 3 pound jar for a couple bucks more). The jug wasn’t very expensive, and the yeast isn’t either.

Malcolm’s favorite way to make mead is to incorporate herbs into it. I wanted to keep it simple on my first try, so I just grabbed 3 pieces of cinnamon bark I had lying around, and simmered up some spring water with those.

I mean really, that’s it. Now I’ve got this gallon jug of golden cloudy liquid sitting in the fermentation station next to my kombuchas. It’s going to take about a month before I know if this worked out, but I’m really excited!

Sake It to Me

It’s about a month or two into my fermentation journey, and I’m at a point where I feel pretty comfortable with brewing kombucha (4 batches with 0 mold so far), and the lacto-fermented dill pickles are looking good, too. So I found myself at that point where I was kind of thinking, OK, what do I do next? Sourdough?

Something whispered that I was ready for the dark side of fermenting. What? No! I brewed beer at IncrediBrew once, and it was definitely too complicated. My brother actually bought me a beer brewing kit many years ago, and I never even tried. The whole idea of the various stages and temperatures was very intimidating. Maybe now it wouldn’t be if I really looked into it. I mean, I have several friends who brew.

But for now, I thought, beer, no. But maybe wine. And then for some reason the idea of sake crossed my mind. I looked it up, and landed on this page. It sounded actually kind of easy to do. Just grind up this little rice wine bath bomb and sprinkle it in amongst some rice. I figured it was worth a try. So I ordered the yeast balls on amazon, and was lucky enough to locate a nice 5 pound bag of glutinous rice at my local grocery store.

I made a batch of sticky rice, and spread it out on a pan to cool off, as per the directions. I pounded up the sake ball into powder. Once the rice was cool, I took two wide-mouth jars and started layering in the rice and powder, as directed. The 3 cups of dry rice made enough cooked rice to nicely fill these two jars.

And that’s it? Could it be that simple?

It MIGHT be that simple. I say this a few days later, though I can’t remember exactly what day I started this (Power Tip: if you’re fermenting stuff, keep a journal or a label or a note on the calendar as to WHEN you kick off various ferments). I have my two jars of rice sitting around, and there’s definitely liquid in there. I’m having to burp those jars every day, because I can see the metal lids buckling up from the pressure. I opened one all the way today to make sure it wasn’t moldy, took a sniff, and…

it smells like sake! Exactly like sake. I think it IS sake. The rice is gradually disappearing and this clear liquid is gradually replacing it.

That’s just badass. But I do wonder. Every other set of directions I can find is LOTS more complicated. There’s a debate raging about the difference between rice wine and sake (not sure I actually care about this distinction). And is all the rice supposed to disappear and turn into sake? Unsure. I suppose I should try some of it.

The other thing is, if the apocalypse hits, I can’t be ordering sake balls on amazon. I feel like I need to find a more sustainable way to make alcohol, like maybe hard cider. And seriously, I do want to try making sourdough…