hist-brewing: Re: Elderberry Mead

JazzboBob at aol.com JazzboBob at aol.com
Mon Sep 17 20:41:28 PDT 2001

Re: hist-brewing: elderberry melomel

I simply pick ripe clumps of elderberries by cutting the stems and putting 
them into grocery store plastic bags with the handles.  The bag can easily 
dangle on your arm as you trim the bushes and drop the berry heads into the 
bag.  I haven't had problems with bugs & critters mixing in with the fruit.  
I just shake the fruit clumps first before I put them in the bag.  Once at 
home, I sit in a comfortable seat leaning over a large pail.  I then use the 
traditional way of plucking the elderberry fruit off the stems by using a 
fork.  By running a fork down the stem, the ripe fruit will pop of the stems 
into the bucket.  I've found that a plastic fork has enough flex to the job 
best without damaging the fruit.  Once my bucket is full, I pack the fruit 
into freezer bags and store them till brew day.  I add the frozen berries 
while pasteurizing my honey at 150 degrees F. and let them go into the 
primary fermentor for a week or two.  I poke a new sanitized Stainless Steel 
scrubby dish ball around my racking cane to act as a strainer/sieve when 
racking to a secondary.  
I like using a lighter honey such as Clover, Alfalfa, or Orange Bloom for my 
Elderberry Meads.  This way the fruit isn't in competition with a heavy honey 
flavor or unknown wildflower characteristic.
I've made a few different style elderberry meads.  The yeast will 
dramatically effect the
fermentation and result in different final gravities.  The tricky part about 
Elderberries is balancing their high tannic quality, refreshing tartness, and 
maintaining a proper residual sweetness in the mead.  The residual sweetness 
will balance and mask the tannins.
I used Champagne yeast in the first Elderberry Mead I made with an OG of 
1.090 and a FG of 1.000.  It was very dry, tart, and astringent.  I never 
particularly enjoyed this batch even after years of aging, although it was 
acceptable if you like dry meads.
The next time, I used an ale yeast and got a FG of 1.025.  This was more to 
my liking. It must have please quite a few others too since it went on to win 
the Gold ribbon in the AHA 2000 National contest.  The complete recipe is in 
Vol.23, Number 5 of Zymurgy.  I have since brewed a strong elderberry mead 
using Champagne yeast with an OG of 1.140 and a FG of 1.026.  It's a very 
powerful elixir that is high in alcohol, berry taste and honey flavors.  I 
made this with batch with wildflower honey and don't like that taste as much 
as my previous batch made with orange blossom honey.
I generally use 1.5 to 2 pounds of berries per gallon of mead.
Honey quantity varies with OG target.
There is an interesting book called Winemaking with Elderberries by T. Edwin 
Belt that has over 100 recipes.  The ISBN is 0 900841 62 1.  You can get some 
interesting ideas here and substitute honey for the sugar called for in the 
by Bob Grossman

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