Wild Fermented Elderflower Mead – Making Mead Like a Viking!

In this video I am making mead like the Vikings did back in the day – without the addition of yeast from a bag. All the yeast that fermented the honey came from the ingredients used: the elderflowers, ginger bug and the wildflower honey itself. It’s super easy to make as well and the result smells and tastes awesome. Just combine all the ingredients with enough water, stir it and let it sit until for a few months until it doesn’t bubble anymore. There is some more nuance to it of course, so please watch and enjoy this video for all the insights on how to make your first batch of wild fermented elderflower mead like I did. The recipe can be found here, and click here for a video on Ginger Bug.

Video transcript:

Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tony Needs Hobbies. The guy you see cycling here is me, Tony, and I forgot to record an intro to this video so I decided to do it this way. In this video I will be making mead, and not any kind of mead but wild fermented elderflower mead. That means it has no yeast added but all the yeast for fermenting came from the ingredients used, like the elderflowers that I’m picking here. And with the elderflowers picked, I’m heading back home to work on the honey.

For this batch of wild fermented mead I’m going to use raw wildflower honey. This hasn’t been treated or heated so all the yeast collected by the bees from the flower petals is still intact and that is important if you want to wild ferment it. The honey I got fully crystallized out so it’s a bit more work to get it into this wide mouth carboy. Since It doesn’t pour I had to scoop the 1650 grams of honey from bucket to carboy. Then it is important to get all the honey into solution. I added 3 liters of water and stirred it until it was all dissolved. I’ll make sure to put the full recipe on my website, www.tonyneedshobbies.com, and will place a link in the description for your reference.

I’m using three natural sources of yeast for the fermentation. The honey, the elderflowers and ginger bug. Ginger bug is a concoction of grated ginger and sugar that comes alive after a few days of feeding and stirring. I have a short video on how to make it and will link it in the top right corner of the screen. I add about half a cup of it to the honey water mixture. I also add raisins as a yeast nutrient. There is a lot of online discussion on whether this is useful or not. I don’t know the answer and have no negative experience from using raisins in mead so I just added a handful.

Then the last ingredient which I have been picking this morning, the elderflowers. I will add a large bunch. That doesn’t sound very scientific, does it? I decided not to care too much about that, since it is an uncontrolled fermentation anyway. But do make sure that the flowers smell fresh and are bug-free. I gave the mixture a good stir, topped it up with water to 5 liters and covered it with a muslin cloth.

Some of the inspiration for this wild fermenting mead I got from this book, Make Mead Like a Viking, by Jereme Zimmerman. The book explains that you should stir the mead as often as possible in the early stage of fermentation for all kinds of reasons, so that’s what I’m going to do next.

For a week I’ve stirred the mixture vigorously every day for a couple of minutes. After every stirring session, I covered the carboy with muslin and placed it outside in a shady part of our backyard. Since it is spring there is a lot going on outside, yeast-wise, and part of wild fermenting fun is trying to catch some of those airborne yeast cells to add to the mix.

It all worked out! After a week the fermentation is going strong as indicated by the bubbles rising. I repeated the daily stirring session for another week and then it was time to transfer the fermenting mead from the wide mouth carboy into a regular one that I can fit with an airlock. Since it is now sealed off, there is no point in storing it outside anymore, so I kept it in a dark and cool place in the house. When the airlock didn’t bubble no more, I started regularly transferring the mead into another carboy, which is called racking, to get the clearest result.

After nine months it was time to check final gravity and have a little taste to see if this batch was ready to be bottled. I siphoned it once more into a clean carboy and took a little sample to taste…

Wow, this mead is awesome! It’s relatively sweet and very floral and I absolutely love it. Since it is a little bit on the sweeter side of things, there will be some residual sugars left so before bottling I might need to stabilize it. To decide on that, let’s check the final gravity.

The gravity reads 1.020 which is indeed a bit high. Wild yeast generally doesn’t reach very high alcohol percentages, so I think this final gravity is just what it will be. To make sure I don’t get exploding bottles I have to stabilize this batch before bottling. It’s super easy but does add one day to the process.

As I did with all materials used during this project, I sanitized another carboy with StarSan. Into this one I will add the stabilizer agents and add the mead to let it sit for a day. Stabilization is done with potassium sorbate and sulfite in equal amounts by weight. The label on the packages advise 0.5 grams of each in this case of a 5 liter batch. I dissolve it in the tiniest amount of water before adding it into the carboy, and then siphon the mead into the carboy as well. A little mead is lost in the siphoning process so I add a little bit of spare mead made in the same way that I had sitting in a flask. The sorbate and sulfite have to do their work for 24 hours after which I can go straight into bottling.

For bottling I’ll be using swing-top bottles for the first time. The clear glass ones I got will look great once filled with mead and it is very easy to reuse these bottles as well, so I invested in a good amount of them. The bottles were already clean but I did sanitize them, as well as the swing-top caps, in a StarSan solution. Then I transferred the mead from my bottling bucket into the freshly cleaned bottles and closed the tops.

I’m really looking forward to taste this awesome wild fermented elderflower mead in a few months to find out how it developed. To remind me what’s inside these bottles, I wrote the contents on a label and stuck one to each bottle to finish this project off.

Alright ladies and gentlemen, that’s it for this video. I made myself a nice batch of wild fermented mead and I learned a lot in the process. I hope you learned a little bit as well. It’s spring again, so get out there, find yourself some elderflowers, get some honey and give it a go. I hope you have enjoyed watching this video and if you did then let me know by hitting that like button. Please also consider subscribing to the channel for more content like this in the future. For now I would like to thank you for watching. Bye, bye!

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