It is time to talk about another use for honey. In this case it’s a use for uncured nectar that would be unstable on a shelf. As many already know if honey isn’t cured to proper moisture content it will ferment. I have seen the results of high-moisture honey in bottles and it gets messy with all the bubbling, bursting, seeping, and sticky stuff everywhere. Common rule-of-thumb is that honey needs to be less than approximately 18% moisture to prevent fermentation. There are methods of drying it down and at a later date I may go over that, but I’ve got other plans for this stuff.
Bees through their own form of intelligence will not cap a honey cell until it is at the proper moisture content. Therefore any frame that is less than 80% capped gets set aside. Once the salable honey is extracted the frames with uncured nectar are done last. All of this high moisture honey is put into buckets labeled “Mead”. This year I had enough high mositure honey from 9 production hives to make two barrels of mead.
For the last several years I have had to make fermented beverages in other people’s basements. This is better than nothing, but when I run out it means I have to go somewhere for a refill. We moved into our new house a couple months ago. During the moving process we discovered that there were about 30 gallons of blackberries in our two deep freezers. Lack of a basement for 7.5 years had me ITCHING to start fermenting at home. Holly was more than happy to get her freezer space back too.
The first order of business was setup. The fruit had been fermenting for about 2 weeks in the primary (a large vat) and was ready to be pressed. This was not the optimum time interval, perhaps a week too long, but the work schedule dictates my availability for other tasks even mead making. Propane burners were used to heat water so the uncured honey would go into solution more easily.
The fermented juice along with the water/honey mixture were poured into the barrel. Once the barrel had been filled to the desired level a home-made Airlock was put in place. This allows carbon dioxide to escape while preventing bugs from getting in and ruining everything. There may be wine purists out there giving me grief for using a plastic barrel.
The entire pressing process took about 6 hours including cleanup. Maintaining cleanliness from beginning to end is the most time consuming part of mead making, but is important when the goal is a good tasting beverage. Everything was washed and allowed to air-dry on the freezers. It seems like all of my activities create HUGE messes. At least that is Holly’s opinion.
Now it’s time to wait. The scheduled opening for this barrel will be my son’s Birthday early year in April. I have put a reminder in my Calendar to write a Mead Review after tasting.
Important Note: The only way to be certain of moisture content in Honey (that I am aware of) is to test it with a refractometer. Taking several samples from each bucket before bottling your saleable honey is the best way to make sure you keep happy customers.
Alright…. What are you doing with your honey?