I have made a number of melomels in my day. In fact, they are possibly my number one favorite way to spice up any old mead recipe.
If you are unfamiliar with the term melomel, it’s simply a mead made like any other mead, but fruit, fruit syrup, or fruit juice or added for extra flavor. These fruits can be added during the primary fermentation, after re-racking, or even during bottling:
– If during first fermentation: the fruit, syrup, or juice will add sugars and nutrients that help speed up the fermentation.
– If after the re-racking (or during secondary fermentation), the fruit retains more of its fruity taste, but may reignite fermentation, leading to a much longer period before safe bottling. Adding it at this time will also dilute the alcoholic content of the mead, since fruit is over 70% water
– If added during bottling, you run the risk of refermentation since fruit is very sugary. It can reignite the yeast and potentially make you blow a bottle. Using potassium sorbate or reinforcing the bottles will prevent this from happening, but you will also run the risk of water-down mead. On the other hand, this will certainly ensure your mead keeps that genuinely fruity taste.
Over the years, I have tried all three of the above methods and found that different ones work better for establishing different tastes and alcoholic content. These three recipes are vastly different, but they have all taught me valuable lessons in my years of mead making, and they are all three recipes I return to year after year.
1. Pomegranate Dessert Mead
Since pomegranate seeds are mostly juice, we have found that there is little difference between using fresh pomegranates and using organic pomegranate juice in this recipe. People who hate peeling pomegranates may find that the juice is just straight-up easier to manage. Those of your freaks (like myself) who get a perverse pleasure out of popping those little suckers out of their holes, today is your lucky day.
If you decide to use the fruit, ensure that you have 3 lbs. of seeds per gallon of mead. That seems like a lot. It totally IS.
If you use the juice, we recommend using 32 oz. per every three gallons. Make sure the juice is organic, with no fillers or added sugars.
In addition to the pomegranate, add 8 oz. of pure vanilla extract per gallon. Don’t worry about this one diluting your booze– pure vanilla extract is made with alcohol of a proof similar to vodka or rum! This will keep the mead from getting too sour and round it out with a gentle, creamy finish.
For ultra sweetness, add this one during the second fermentation. Wait for the second fermentation to end, then let it sit a couple weeks before bottling to be sure nothing blows. Serve it with anything chocolate.
2. Dry Blackberry Mead
Good things come to those who wait! This was my first, honest-to-goodness melomel, and I made it purely because I love the taste of blackberries. We added 3 lbs per gallon, whole berries to the primary fermentation. That is a HELL of a lot of blackberries, but trust me– it’s worth it. Don’t mash them, boil them, or turn them into syrup. Just add them whole and let them do their thing.
Now, this one is gonna take a little extra long, but it’s going to be worth it. Wait until the blackberries are completely unrecognizable. The mead will turn a gorgeous, red wine color all on its own, and what remains of the blackberries will sink down into the must. This will probably take a lot longer than you are used to– perhaps three to five months, depending on environmental conditions. Once the bubbling is done and the berries are sunk, rerack it, and then forget about it for like, say, another five months. Trust me– it’s worth the wait!
When you bottle it, you will want to sample it, and you will probably be disappointed. It will have that boozy tang that shows that it is not mature enough. That’s ok! It just needs to sit. Let it do so. We let ours sit for about six months and found that it has a delightful taste, but the one bottle we left for a year was where it truly shined. This made it taste like a light, but flavorful red wine. It didn’t have the bitter after taste of Chardonnay, but was closer to a light, pinot noir.
3. Strawberry Syrup Mead
This is my most recent obsession. I wanted to make something sweet, and our strawberries were just about out of season, so I decided to take the syrup route. Of course, you can buy strawberry syrup, but it’s a) so much more rewarding and b) so much more flavorful to make your own.
Again following that metric of 3 lbs. of fruit per gallon, chop your strawberries up into little bits. Then, mix in 1 cup of water and 1 cup of white sugar for every 2 cups of strawberries you have. Boil these suckers until the syrup looks like cough syrup on the back of a metal spoon. For my most recent 1 gallon batch (3 lbs. of strawberries) this took about thirty minutes total, with the occasional stirring so that it didn’t get stuck to the pan.
Add this to your honey, then mix in water to both. With all that sugar, these suckers will ferment like crazy, so make sure to keep an eye on your airlocks. Taste it when you rerack– if it’s not strawberry or sweet enough for your liking, add more syrup. If it is, let it sit another month or two to be sure it won’t have a second fermentation.