Cherry Mead is a traditional melomel (fruited honey mead), found throughout northern Europe but due to being found abundantly in the Nordic regions it gains a claim to fame of being drank by those of Viking descent. Due to the color being of a reddish nature as that of drawn blood, as well as the legends of Vikings drinking the blood enemies, it is known colloquially as Viking’s Blood. It is a blend of blossom (local honey from any source) honey, tart and sour cherries, berries and local edible flowers such as hibiscus which both mellow the flavor a little and add more natural yeast.
It is wild yeast fermented mead with the fruit within providing the yeast needed and therefore can be unpredictable when it comes to the strength. Average alcohol content per gallon is 12% but in doing this brewing I encountered in my test batches as low as 10% and as high as 14% with 2 more being around the 12% content. Recipes vary and as the years passed people started adding sugar, molasses and juiced beets to the final brewing to level off the taste as people tastes have changed during the decades. Traditionally it is a sour tart taste with slight honey notes and is more booze tasting than most mead which tent to have a dryer, more like wine taste to them.
The traditional method was to mash the fruits and remove the pits and add the juice and some fruit into a pot of honey thinned with the juice and a little water and let to must for about a month or two. The vessel used was earthen jars and these where presumed to be covered with something like a cloth to keep out dirt and vermin. When fermented to the point of wishing to be drunk, the liquid was strained multiple times to remove solids.
I would have loved to have tried doing this the traditional manor but due to covid being airborne as well brewing in a house with cats (note:cats are not allowed or have been on the mead making floor!) I have chosen to use a commercial 6 gallon plastic brew bucket and commercial single stage air lock.
12 Lbs. of raw, local Honey (the source of my honey is from an apple orchard)
5 lbs. of sour/tart mix of cherries (these are getting harder to find, I had to get mine from Mexico New York at a farm market, a lot of people substitute tart cherry juice and add to it citric acid)
1lb of berries (berries vary from locale to locale, for this I used black currents for both taste and a little darker red coloring to the final product).
10 ounces of mixed dried flowers (for this I found a taste profile I liked with a 50-50 blend of rose and hibiscus)
Water (I use distilled water from the infant supply aisle at Walmart since I don’t have access to a spring)
Crush up cherries and remove all the pits (pits will turn the mead into an undrinkable mess).
Crush up the currents
Blend the flowers as best as possible with a mortar and pestle as fine as you can mash them (note, flowers dried in a commercial dehydrator are best for this, I used air dried flowers and you don’t get a nice almost powder, you get more a bigger leafy pieces)
Mix the dry ingredients in the brew bucket thoroughly
In a stock pot (use a big one or you might need to repeat) heat water up to 100 degrees (you do not want higher ever!).
In the brew bucket add your honey (yes, most people want to scum it but if you get it from a good source, scumming is unnecessary and I don’t believe it was period) and then add water to bring it to the 5 gallon line.
Stir until all honey is dissolved and the fruit mix swirls freely.
Cap and airlock the brew bucket
Store in a warm area and breaking a typical rule of mead making in an area which the sun can shine on it.
The next day it will start to bubble. Since this is using a wild method, the bubbling may not be vigorous but don’t worry, it’s a slower brew. And since you are not exposing to air I believe it slows it even more.
At one month, 2 months and 2 1/2 months you will rack it by carefully scooping the mead from one bucket being carefully not to scrap or stir up the bottom into another clean brew bucket. Make sure you get as much as the fruit you can as its still flavoring the mead. At the three month period you will cover a clean brew bucket with a cloth and strain the liquid through the cloth by scooping it and slowly pouring it through. Discard all the solids, rinse the cloth and keep straining the liquid until clear.
Use a hygrometer if you wish (it is done but to make sure) and it should be between 10 and 14 but perfect is 12. Bottle into dark stone capped bottles and store in darkness. This mead is best served cold. Pairs perfect with sweets and make a good marinade for red meats.