Mead is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known, probably due to the simplicity of production and the availability of its ingredients. Food historians have called mead the “ancestor of all fermented drinks.”
Archaeological evidence of mead production has been found dating as early as 2000 B.C. Mead was supposedly the preferred beverage during Greece’s Golden Age. In the old English epic poem “Beowulf,” written between the eighth and 11th centuries, Danish warriors were described drinking mead.
Research on the etymology of the word “honeymoon” reveals that the word derived from a traditional European practice of supplying a newly married couple with a month’s supply of honey wine, ensuring happiness and fertility.
All meads have at least three components in common: water, honey and yeast. The resulting wine can be altered in many ways. Fruits, spices, herbs and grains are popular additives, spawning variations of traditional mead with interesting flavors and potency.
Colehour Bondera is one of South Kona’s mazers, or mead makers, and his recipes are both interesting and tasty.
He often includes the juice of mango, jaboticaba or lilikoi in his mead. The resulting beverage is a melomel, or fruit-infused mead. When he uses rose petals, lavender or chamomile, he is making a metheglin. All mead forms go through a fairly similar process, however.
When making any fermented beverage, only use sanitized containers so unwanted bacteria or wild yeasts do not interfere with your desired results. Sanitize containers using soapy water and a diluted chlorine solution.
After cleaning, sanitizing and drying the containers, the mazer will prepare the “must” by adding honey to heated water. The honey selected, as well as the water’s source, can affect your results. Choose a high-quality honey in a flavor you prefer. Avoid chlorinated water as the chlorine can kill or slow down the fermentation process.
Rack and aerate the must to prepare it for fermentation. Nearly every mazer will follow similar guidelines for these steps, but the order of steps and techniques used may vary among experienced mead makers.
The yeast is then “pitched” by adding it to the water and honey must, which starts the fermentation process. Some mead makers select yeast that is specific to the type of mead they are making. Good mead can also result from using readily available bread yeast.
Once the three major ingredients have been combined, additional flavors can be added. The taste of the resulting beverage can be affected in this step. Most mazers have done extensive experimentation and can offer advice on additions that result in a superior product.
Mead making also requires patience. The mixture needs to sit in a dark place with an airlock for at least a month before racking to a new container. When the fermentation slows, taste and smell the liquid to be sure it is fermenting properly. This is a good time to move the liquid, without the sediment or fruit flavorings, to a new container. Continue to let it ferment with the airlock in place until fermentation slows to a stop and the liquid clears. This can take up to six months. Once this occurs, it is time to bottle your mead, let it settle a bit more and enjoy the results of your efforts.
Mazer Colehour Bondera gave advice on mead making for this column.
Tropical Gardening Helpline
Lorraine asks: I bought some lovely orchid plants at the recent Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club sale, but I didn’t have time to stay and get advice on caring for them. Can you help?
Tropical Gardener answer: Your new orchid plants will thrive and bloom again and again if you care for them properly. Most of the orchids sold at the recent show will do well in our tropical climate.
Many tropical orchids are epiphytes, or air plants, and prefer to have moist air space around their roots. Orchids do well even when their roots are crowded though, so you don’t need to repot until you see roots coming out of their current container. Once you notice crowding, or if the growing medium no longer seems to drain well, start planning to repot.
When you repot, choose to place the plant in a very loose mix of wood chips or stones that can hold some moisture in the root zone while allowing adequate drainage to prevent the medium from becoming soggy.
If you want to attach epiphytic orchids to tree crotches outside, choose a spot that is at least partly shady. You can use nylon stockings to secure the plant to the tree and be sure to keep the roots misted. At lower elevations or in dry areas, it is best to lightly mist orchid plants daily and keep them out of full sun. Since they absorb water through their roots, be sure to hit the root zone with your spray.
You might also want to consider giving your new orchids an occasional shower. Take them into the shower with you or let them have a light shower of their own. Be careful not to hit them with too much concentrated soap or strong water blasts, but the warm humidity will make them very happy. If you can close the bathroom and let them remain in the warm (not hot) misty environment for a while that will add to their pleasure.
Enjoy your orchids and watch for classes on orchid care or go to some of the orchid club meetings for more detailed information.
Email plant questions to email@example.com for answers by certified Master Gardeners.
Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.
This column is produced by Diana Duff.