Saturday, February 28, 2009

wild winter mead

I have a love/hate relationship with persimmons. You see, I want to love them, but they are so easy to hate. They are a fruit that I have purchased maybe twice in my life, but somehow I end up with a box or two of them every year. Not wanting to see them wasted, I've tried some different means of preparation these past couple of years. I started with a korma. Satisfying yes. Duplicated, no. Then came the sorbet. Tasty indeed, but once again, have I made it another time? No. Let's see, how about that winter soup? Nope. Okay, maybe I'll make the souffle again, but I'm not guaranteeing anything. Anyway, my point is, I've tried and tried to use persimmons in new and fun ways, but ultimately have only succeeded in getting them off the counter. I ate them, but haven't really looked forward to doing it again. This winter, that changed.

I'm not going to go into too much detail here, because like all ferments, it involves a bit of hocus pocus, and sometimes a little witchcraft, and describing it in words won't suffice. Lets say, it starts right here though, with gooey, slimey, do I have to really touch that? textured fruit. Notice the whitish stuff on the skin. That's yeast right there. Smelling and possibly tasting each piece of fruit you are using, goop up about eight of these bad boys and stir it into about half a gallon of honey. Add about one gallon of tap water, mix well and cover with cheesecloth. Don't cook anything. Well, maybe the water, but thats it. Stir somewhat frequently (whenever you remember, which for me was about every hour of so) until the cauldron you have it in begins to froth.

In this case, by day three we were rocking. I liked the idea of this being a winter fruit mead, so expanded on the theme and added the juice of a few tangerines and the arils of a few pomegranates, along with some more water into a three gallon carboy. To this I added the stockpot's contents of bubbling brew and put on an airlock valve. A few weeks of magic later, the arils were looking all bleached out, the fruit pulp was nice and separated into distinct horizons on the top and bottom and the liquid looked fairly clear. I siphoned this off into another carboy and put the airlock back on.

After another month more of spontaneous alcohol formation, it was ready to bottle. Clear, big on the fruit, yet nearly totally dry, with a slight tinge of pinky orange and well over 10 percent alcohol, this is some potent stuff, though I'm surprised how smooth it is already. It never fermented at anywhere over 70 degrees during the course of magic involved and this likely helped. Well that, and apparently, persimmons have good yeast on them. Now, finally, I have something to do with these freaky fruit that I'll look forward to duplicating next year.

Really, like, I can't wait! Because the story goes deeper, and involves two beers now, both fermented with the wild yeast that started it all. But, unfortunately, I'll have to get to blabbing about that one later. I've got some wild winter mead to sample.

11 comments:

K and S said...

I guess you could always dry some, wash and peel them and then dry them in the sun, they get really sweet and you can eat them whenever!

Todd said...

Is the mead sour at all, or does it have any obvious brett characteristics? This recipe is fascinating. I've only made beers before, always using brewers yeast, and even with meads, ciders, or melomels, while I've heard of spontaneously fermenting them, I'd never seen the outcome (in a non-commercial beverage). It looks incredible.

Mimi said...

I love the color of your mead. I bet it's delicious!

So.. are you saying you used the wild yeast from the persimmons to make beer? Very intriguing. I can't wait to read about that!

Monkey Wrangler said...

Kat: True, dried is good. And the preserving them for later is key. The problem being though, is that I always get them after Turkey day and they are impossible to dry here in the Oaktown sun round about December. Besides, so far the kick in this recipe is treating me rather nicely.

Todd: Thanks for dropping by! Sour? A touch, yes. Whether it is Brett or Lacto I'm not sure though. I recently learned from the brewer at Valley Brewing that the San Joaquin Valley has good lacto in its fruit. (All of the fruit in the recipe came from there.) He especially mentioned pomegranates and lacto and I got to try a Kriek of sorts that had some in it. Very nice. It got me thinking because rIght before talking to him I brewed a small golden ale of sorts and pitched the dregs of this mead. It fermented quickly and cleanly and it turned out a touch sour. This has developed even more after I bottled it and at this point I can't wait to see what happens. Brett or Lacto? What are your thoughts?

Monkey Wrangler said...

Mimi: You snuck in there while I was writing. Ha! And yes, as I told Todd a bit, the yeast was used to brew a beer and with very nice results. Sorry to tease, but yup, I will get to that one later.

Todd said...

I always attribute prominent sourness to lacto and barnyard to brett, which I know is shorthand and probably plain wrong much of the time, but since I haven't brewed with any wild critters, I'm pretty loose with the terms.

Regardless, your experiements are inspiring. Brewing with wild yeasts has an air of danger and mystery to me. The comments you referenced from the Valley Brewing brewer are particularly intriguing. I think I'll pick up a couple 3 gallon carboy for an experiment in the near future.

K and S said...

I've seen a lot of people string them up and just leave them outside, I don't think the sun directly hits them, but amazingly they do dry! though I think the brewing of various wines/beer sound just as nice :)

Monkey Wrangler said...

Todd: I'm more or less with you on the lacto and brett description and making other wild ferments involving lacto and the resulting sourness seems to confirm this. But. Where are you? Any access to Russian RIver beer? Sanctification? 100% brett for yeast and definitely some sour. Makes me wonder.....

As for brewing with the wild critters, well, do it! If you are paranoid about contamination, then segregate your equipment. Start small maybe. I've found that 1/2 gallon glass milk bottles work great.

Do you have a source of sourdough near? You can start a beer with that. Really. Or get the yeast from fruit and proceed from there. (I can't wait for cherry season around here. I'm gonna try a cherry lambic, since apparently these are a tradition in Belgium because cherries have good yeast on them. Or maybe I'll be cheap, uh, I mean frugal and try a free relative like a plum from the neighbors yard.)

Anyway, thanks for the response. Keep it up and let me know how the experiments go.

Kat: I'm sorry to sound like I'm blowing off the idea. I'll give it a try this fall when I find myself with another box. Oh, and I'm assuming the Fuyu are better for this? (The image of the Hachiya goop dripping off strings in the backyard is amusing though.)

K and S said...

no worries SMW, don't know the type of kaki, though I think they are the oblong type more than the round.

nahthan said...

Dylan,
What a cool project. It's great reading these stories of ambient/wild fermentation with favorable results. You would probably also enjoy this story if you haven't seen it:
http://morebeer.ning.com/profiles/blogs/ambient-spontaneous-wild
All of this really makes me feel that we are really at just the beginning of a new wave of interesting, creative home fermentation. During a time of paper wealth destruction it's cool to see people everywhere becoming more conscious of the wealth of things in our environment that we've had all along..
I'm drinking your harvest 9/2008 ale right now and it's a very tasty beer. Grassy citrus hops still very much present, I was a bit worried I'd sat on this one too long. Thankfully not. Cheers,

-Nate a few streets over from you, nate@destroy.net

Monkey Wrangler said...

Nathan: Thanks for dropping by! I had not seen that link before so I'll check it out in detail asap.

I'm totally with you on the new wave of fermentation interest thang. Yes, we need to use more of what is around and free for the harvesting. Let the little critters do the work.

And thanks for the beer notes. Nice description, but, you sure that was my beer? (Kidding.) I'll keep you in the loop for when some of the wild experiments will be available for tasting. I'm thinking the first weekend in April if you're interested....