Gonna make some of my not-quite-world-famous (yet!) Chai Mead this week. It is hands down my favorite alcoholic refreshment and everyone who has tried it is in love with it. If only I could afford to make my way through the bureaucracy and regulations involved in brewing and selling alcohol, I’d be set for life. Since I can’t do that, I’ll just share the recipe for others to enjoy.
Per gallon of water:
2.25lbs of honey
1 chai tea bag
1 tsp peppercorns (black is just fine, but I like to use the rainbow mix from Mountain Rose Herbs)
1 whole star anise pod
2 tsp finely chopped orange peel
A handful of golden raisins
A couple pieces of cinnamon (about yay much. I use about 2 finger sized pieces)
Throw a few allspice berries in there, too. Because, why not? Experiment.
Bring water to a boil, add all ingredients except the honey and tea bag and simmer for approximately a half hour. Remove from heat, add tea bag and leave to steep another half hour or so. Strain. Add honey and pour into carboy and leave to cool. Rehydrate your yeast in a small bowl of warm water. One packet of yeast will make approximately 5 gallons of mead so adjust accordingly. I generally use either Lalvin D 47 or EC 1118 for mead. When the temperature in the carboy comes down to around 105-110 degrees (like warm bathwater), add your yeast and place the airlock. Leave in a cool, dark place for 2ish weeks or until active fermentation stops. Rack into bottles and let stand at room temperature for 2 weeks. Ready to drink! Make sure to chill before serving.
Now, this is a super simple, easy recipe. You can get all kinds of complicated with wine-making and add all sorts of extra steps and buy all kinds of fancy equipment, but really, why would you? Mankind has been doing this for 6,000 years or so without all that fuss and fanfare. Use what you have on hand. Don’t have a professional carboy? No problem. A gallon cider jug or milk jug (well-cleaned & sanitized) works just as well. No airlock? Use a balloon. Heck, use plastic wrap and a rubber band. Seriously, your great grandma did this in old pickle jars without needing packaged nutrients, sulfite tablets and acid blends.