By Christy Bassett, NOFA/Mass Communications Director
Making mead can be as simple or as complex as you’d like to make it.
One of the oldest ways to preserve food is through fermentation. And of the various foods and drinks that we can ferment and enjoy, some of the most popular include beer and wine. A slightly lesser known variation of these fermented alcoholic beverages is mead. Perhaps because the rarity of the primary raw ingredient used to make it, mead has yet to make it to most menus.
Instead of the grain used as a base for beer, or the fruit used to create most wines, mead is a wine made with a foundation of honey. A lot of honey. The quantity needed to make a batch of mead will vary depending on how much finished product you’d like to make, but in general you can count on needing at least a few pounds of honey to start with. Now, for good reason, honey isn’t cheap. It’s estimated that a single bee produces only about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. So a few pounds of honey is the life’s work of many, many honey bees. But a colony is made up of tens of thousands of bees, which together can produce up to 50-100 lbs of honey per year. One bit at a time, a hive can put away much more honey than the bees themselves need to survive, and thus, in many cases there is excess honey that humans can harvest and use to nourish ourselves as well.
Keeping bees and harvesting quality honey is a job that requires dedication and skill. It’s not a responsibility that is right for everyone, so if you’re not up for caring for your own hive, you can find a local beekeeper that is dedicated to producing honey in a way that ensures the health of the bees and environment on the NOFA/Mass Organic Food Guide. There are also local beekeeping groups, like the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association, or the Worcester County Beekeepers Association, where you can find plenty of valuable resources around keeping bees in Massachusetts.
If you are someone who keeps bees, you already know the value of even a small amount of honey. Making mead from that liquid gold is just one more way that you can connect with the complex system that you have nurtured. If you would like to learn more about what goes into keeping bees, check out the NOFA/Mass YouTube channel for presenter and beekeeper Mel Gadd’s workshop from the 2022 NOFA Summer Conference: A Primer on Natural Beekeeping.
Mel Gadd is also teaching a new workshop at the 2023 NOFA/Mass Winter Conference on Making Mead. Here is the workshop description: