How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My First Mead

I apologize but my computer crashed on Friday and I haven't been able to enter another blog. Where would the world be without computers and technology??? Obviously, we wouldn't have any blogs to read on a weekly basis. I am entering this on my iPad until my computer is working. I have been doing a lot of reading in preparation for making mead and mango wine. It has been many years since I made wine. I had my husband go up into the attic to see if he could find our old wine making equipment. We were trying to remember exactly what year it was when we made our Mango wine. We found the glass Carboy, primary fermenter, hydrometer, siphon tubing etc. Some of the equipment was salvageable some was not. Inside the primary fermenter was the receipt and the year was 1997. I cannot believe it has been 15 years since we made mango wine. No wonder we cannot remember the process. I have been reading and exploring several books, and the Internet, and there is so much information that it is mind boggling. Some of the science behind fermentation is like reading the Krebs cycle from Organic Chemistry. A few books recommended to read were "The Joy of Winemaking" by Terry Garey, "First Steps in Winemaking" by C.J.J. Berry, and "The Complete Meadmaker" Ken Schramm.

In February I took a class on Mead making while attending Bee College through the University of Florida. It was a lot of fun and brought back so many memories from when we made the mango wine. It actually was one of my favorite classes I attended. So what exactly is Mead? Basically, it is nothing more than Honey, water, and yeast. This mixture (known as a Must) is allowed to ferment until the yeast has converted the sugars into alcohol, at which point it is called Mead. The records of honey use and gathering predate those of winemaking, and beer brewing. Honey is considered a Paleolithic food. Rock drawings from Valencia, Spain, dated as far back as 15,000 BC indicate that humans may have been raiding beehives for honey in Paleolithic times. Rumor has it honeymoon refers to an old practice of giving newlywed couples a month's (moon) supple of mead (honey). Though considered the finest drink, mead has fallen out of of favor in the past several hundred years. Mead is now making a comeback due to the rising popularity of home-brewing and microbreweries.

There are different types of mead. For example a melomel is mead made with fruit, cyser melomel is made from apples, apple juice or cider, pyment melomel made with grapes, or grape juice, and metheglin mead is fermented and flavored with herbs and spices.

As you all know, I became a beekeeper last October and I am thoroughly enjoying all aspects of beekeeping. First of all, I love the fact that I am helping bees. My hives seem to be thriving. I am glad I am using TBH and feel it is a very natural way for the bees to draw comb. The only complaint that I have is I want more honey. Last time I was in the hives the queen had laid brood in the bars towards the back that we're full of honey. I need to wait for the brood to hatch. I opened up the brood area toward the front of the hive to give her more room to lay, in hopes that she will stay out of the honey area. I decided to see exactly how much honey I had bottled. I need 3 to 3.5 lbs of honey for a gallon of mead. I had slightly more than that. My biggest dilemma was trying to decide what recipe to make. I was thinking about making a mango ginger melomel but was persuaded to make a very proven and easy recipe for my first mead. It is called Joe's Ancient Orange Mead. It has been made thousands of times through the years. I found this recipe on The recipe is as follows:

Joe’s Ancient Orange and Spice Mead

A little caveat before we continue. This recipe flies in the face of just about all standard brewing methods used to make consistent and good Meads. It was created by Joe Mattioli to make a fast and tasty drink out of ingredients found in most kitchens. It is therefore perfect for the beginner, which has resulted in it being perhaps the most popular Mead recipe available on the internet. As Joe himself says “It is so simple to make and you can make it without much equipment and with a multitude of variations. This could be first Mead for the novice as it is almost foolproof. It is a bit unorthodox but it has never failed me or the friends I have shared it with. (snip) will be sweet, complex and tasty.” Follow the instructions exactly as provided and you cannot go wrong. If you want to make larger batches, just scale up the recipe keeping all ingredients in the same proportion.

1 gallon batch 3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet) 1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller, rind and all) 1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok) 1 stick of cinnamon 1 whole clove (or 2 if you like - these are potent critters) Optional - a pinch of nutmeg and allspice (very small) 1 teaspoon of Fleishmann’s bread yeast (now don't get holy on me--- after all this is an ancient mead and that's all we had back then) Balance water to one gallon


Use a clean 1 gallon carboy

Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights --add orange (you can push em through opening big boy -- rinds included -- its ok for this mead -- take my word for it -- ignore the experts)

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. (need room for some foam -- you can top off with more water after the first few days frenzy)

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen, put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don't have to rehydrate it first-- the ancients didn't even have that word in their vocabulary-- just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not)(The yeast can fight for their own territory)

Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don't use grandma's bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90's - wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don't shake it! Don't mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except its okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.

Racking --- Don't you dare

Additional feeding --- NO NO

More stirring or shaking -- Your not listening, don't touch

After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that, you are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don't need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet), likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn't work out... you screwed up and didn't read my instructions (or used grandma's bread yeast she bought years before she passed away). If it didn't work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.

If you were successful, which I am 99% certain you will be, then enjoy your mead. When you get ready to make different mead you will probably have to unlearn some of these practices I have taught you, but hey--- This recipe and procedure works with these ingredients so don't knock it. It was your first mead. It was my tenth. Sometimes, even the experts can forget all they know and make good ancient mead. And there you have it. You have made your first Mead. Now come the steps that must be followed to make a good, and eventually great Mead.

The recipe was very easy to follow. Within an hour of making it the airlock started to bubble, showing me that the yeast was working. Now I just need to have the patience to wait for at least 6 months. I made a video of the process but the sound was not audible. I will include as many pictures as possible. Maybe I will be able to fix the sound on the video.

I’m so excited that I made my first mead. It was especially fulfilling knowing I used my own honey from my bee hives!!

Next, Mango Wine! I have cut up approximately 20-25 lbs of fresh Florida red mangos. My personal favorite mango!! They are frozen in my freezer just waiting for me to start the process. Freezing actually helps break down the cell wall and extract more juice from the fruit. I need to read some more and have a better understanding about the relationship between specific gravity and alcohol content. Like i said it is like a lesson in chemistry!

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