This is a recipe for a wild fermentation, taking advantage of the natural yeasts present in honey and in the air. This is the oldest form of fermentation, before the intervention of pasteurization, commercial yeasts and additives. Although wild yeasts can produce inconsistent results, we find it a fun way to lean into the wild side of fermentation and have always enjoyed the varying flavors of our batches!
(Yields: 1 gallon)
1 gallon filtered/de-chlorinated water 3 pounds of raw honey or ~1 quart
Optional fruit or herbal additions
1-2 gallon wide-mouth bucket, crock or jar
Pressurized glass bottles (if carbonating)
Note: Make sure you are using clean equipment at every stage. Sanitizer is not necessary since this is a wild ferment, however you may choose to use it to minimize cross contamination.
Combine honey and water, in the 1-2 gallon wide mouth vessel. Stir vigorously to integrate and dissolve the honey completely. Cover with a cloth to keep out fruit flies, and store out of direct sunlight. Stir multiple times a day to aerate and activate the wild yeasts.
After a few days (depending on temperature of your kitchen and the natural yeasts in the honey) the mead will start to bubble vigorously. Keep stirring multiple times a day! After a couple more days, the bubbling will start to slow. This is the point when you must move the ferment to an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment quickly before your ferment turns to vinegar! Using an auto-siphon and/or tubing, transfer the mead (referred to as "racking") to your fermenter with an airlock lid, leaving any sediment on the bottom of your vessel behind. The sediment is known as spent yeast, or lees.
(Note: you could transfer directly into a bottle and drink while it's young and slightly sweet, but further fermenting/aging often lends better results).
Ferment with an airlock for several more weeks/months. After about a month or so, it's recommended to rack (siphon) the mead into a clean gallon fermenter. This is an optional transfer, but it helps age and clarify the mead and removes from spent yeast on the bottom that can cause off- flavors. After about six months the mead should be ready for bottling. You may bottle sooner than that, but the more patience you have, the better the it gets!
When you are ready to bottle, without agitating the jug or disturbing the yeast sediment on the bottom, rack (siphon) the mead into bottles. It's recommended to further age the mead in bottle so flavors will continue to mellow, soften and integrate.
Note: If you want a sparkling mead, add two tablespoons of sugar (dissolved in a 1/4 cup of boiled water) to the gallon of mead before bottling.