By Carly Leusner
My favorite fermentation author, Sandor Katz in The Art of Fermentation, champions simple, low-tech brewing methods, using the same approach people have been employing for thousands of years. This includes not aging your mead, along with inviting wild yeast. I have made mead a number of ways, using both low- and high-tech methods, and encourage you to start simple. Here is an adapted version of Sandor’s recipe in Wild Fermentation, the first mead recipe I ever tried. It turned out great! Makes 1 gallon.
3 quarts dandelion flowers (see below for harvesting advice), divided
1 gallon water
1,350 grams (1 quart) raw, unfiltered honey
1 orange, preferably organic, sliced in half crosswise
1 cup raisins, preferably organic
1 gallon jug or vessel
Cloth or lid
Pay respect and give thanks for dandelion’s tenacious spirit and medicinal gifts––ask permission from the plants before you pick. Harvest your dandelion flowers from a site you know does not get sprayed, in the early morning when dew is on the flowers. Choose only large, open, pristine-looking flowers. With my two forefingers in a “V” shape, I float the flower between my fingers and slowly lift. I find this is an effective and efficient way to harvest the flowers. I use the whole flower in my mead, though some prefer to remove the green bits for less bitter flavor. Plan to brew directly after harvest to achieve the best results.
Bring the water to a boil, pour over half of the dandelions in your fermentation vessel, and cover with a lid or large plate. Let this cool to body temperature, then add the other half of your flower harvest, honey, orange, and raisins. Be patient! Do not add the honey and second batch of flowers until the first infusion cools––otherwise you could kill the wild yeasts on the flowers and in the honey.
Stir all the ingredients thoroughly. Keep the vessel covered either with a cloth or lid and stir or shake the blend vigorously for a few minutes every day, several times a day. You should begin to notice slight bubbles after a few days of stirring. This activity will slowly build to a crescendo of bubbling, lasting about a week or 10 days. Here your young mead is partially fermented and ready to drink!
If you would like to bottle and age your mead, see the following resources:
Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz
Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers by Stephen Harrod Buhner