James has written for various magazines, including Celtic Guide, Mythology Magazine, and Pagan Forest.
What Is Melomel?
Simply put, melomel is any mead that has been infused with fruit.
(Technical points: If you use grapes it’s also called pyment. If you use apples it’s also called cyser. If you use mulberries it’s called morat.)
Black and Blue Melomel
When I make my winter melomel, I like it to be as dark as possible. With the year drawing to a close and the days getting shorter, I feel closer to the darker, underworld deities. No orange and lemon in my winter mead. Which fruit is dark? Blackberries! So I worked out a blackberry melomel recipe.
When I was at the store buying the blackberries, I spotted blueberries and had the epiphany to use both kinds of berries so I could call it my black and blue mead. It would have the added bonus of letting the two berry flavors merge and prevent either one from becoming too “in your face.”
Unfortunately for me, it being my first (and so far only) melomel, I used more berries than were necessary and it still came out rather thick. So if you really like a deep fruit flavor (yes, berries are fruits; specifically, they are the fleshy fruit made from a single flower containing one ovary—think about that while you’re drinking the mead), stick with my recipe as I have it below.
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If you want a more mellow fruit flavor, you can easily halve the berry quantities.
Yield, Alcohol Content, and Aging
The recipe given here is for a bit over two gallons of mead that comes out at an ABV of 12%.
I drank my last bottle of it five or six years after it was made and it really mellowed into something wonderful. So if you have the patience, wait at least two or three years in order to experience a bit of quality.
- 5 pounds honey
- 2 gallons water
- 5 pounds berries (I did half blackberry and half blueberry)
- 2/3 tsp yeast nutrient
- 2/3 tsp yeast energizer
- 1/2 bottle mead yeast
- Heat all the water to boiling and then remove from heat (some mead makers prefer to do a cold throw and not heat the water at all—I’ve had those and they’re good, but I’m just a bit on the anal-retentive side about disinfecting).
- Once the water has cooled down to 160°F, add the honey, yeast nutrient, and yeast energizer (I only ever add the nutrient, but feel I should be complete when giving you my directions).
- Let it sit for 15 minutes and then chill to 75°F. Get the mixture into a fermenter (I use a 3-gallon glass carboy), add the yeast (you can add the whole yeast packet/bottle if you want a robust fermentation and don’t have plans for the other half), and swish it around a bit to aerate.
- Let it sit for 2-4 weeks and then rack (move) it over into a fermenting bucket. During this time is when you’ll add the berries. I put the berries in a grain bag (in a pinch you can use new pantyhose) and boiled them for a few minutes. This ensured they were disinfected, but also mushed them up a bit to really get the juice into the must. Add the berries, still in the grain bag, into the bucket, and the juice will seep out into the must during fermentation. If you don’t have a bucket, you can squeeze it into a carboy, but be careful or it will be very messy. The extra sugar produced by the berries will probably kick start the yeast again, especially if you used the whole yeast packet for the small batch, so make sure there is room in the container for the activity.
- Let it sit another 2-4 weeks before bottling (I let it sit 4). If you add a little honey to the mixture just before bottling, it will turn it into a sparkling melomel. I did not, as I wanted it more wine-like.
- Wassail and enjoy!
© 2015 James Slaven