By Avery Peters
Peters Family Home Brew: Peach Melomel (Mead)
Most of the food I write about here I’ve made myself, but, for mead-making, I take more of a supporting role to my husband Zak. He’s been making mead for the last 2.5 years – since we moved to the Valley – and this past summer he decided to try a variation of his recipe and add peaches. Peaches have always been my favourite fruit. I’m glad that I transplanted from Niagara to the Annapolis Valley because I don’t know what I’d do without fresh local peaches. Our mead couldn’t get more local because we get our peaches from Kingsport and our honey from our neighbour here in Wolfville, just a few blocks away.
Mead is a fermented beverage made from honey. You can add fruits and spices or even grains or hops. Officially, if you add apples to mead, it’s called Cyser, and if you add other fruits to mead it’s called Melomel, so that’s what Zak’s making here. The alcohol content can be anywhere from 8-20% (although getting to 20% is very rare) and this depends on how much honey you add at the beginning. After fermentation you back-sweeten your mead to get the desired sweetness that you’re looking for.
Zak has been perfecting his recipe and when I mentioned I wanted to go peach picking last summer as a family, he knew right away that he wanted to pick extra peaches for making mead. Oakview Farms is the ideal place for peach picking with views of the Minas Basin from the peach orchard that surrounds you by lush green trees laden with fragrant fruit. We’ve picked peaches at Oakview Farms for the last 3 years. This was our son Llewyn’s second time picking peaches with us, so he’s already a seasoned picker. He had so much fun picking peaches off the low hanging tree branches and running up and down the rows.
I like to freeze peaches for oatmeal and smoothies throughout the winter. This past year we went a little crazy and picked 80 pounds of peaches. Our bags filled up so fast, but we’ve almost used them all already. Zak used 12 pounds for a batch of mead and then he, so kindly, asked to use more for a second batch. I leave the mead-making to Zak and if you have any further questions, I’m sure he’d be happy to talk to you about the details over a board game and a glass of mead. I know I cringe when it comes time for him to start a new batch of mead because it can make a sticky mess all over the kitchen. Honey has a way of getting on to every surface.
Generally it takes about 1 month to ferment mead. For peach mead he racks (transfers the batch from one carboy to another to remove the solids that settle to the bottom) it about 4-5 times. He racks peach mead a few more times because he adds the actual fruit to the carboy for the initial fermentation which means there are a lot more solids in the batch. The beauty of making mead this way is the authentic peach flavour, rather than just adding peach juice to the mead. Another technique he has not yet tried, is to add the peaches to the secondary fermentation, but that’s a whole new level of mead education reserved for serious mead makers.
Zak chooses to make his mead still, but for this next batch of peach mead that’s almost done, I’m asking that he make some of it sparkling. To make it sparkling, what he’ll do is prime the bottles with some sugar after it’s done fermenting and before he bottles it. Right now there’s a nice subtlety to the peach flavour, but it will be neat to see what bubbles do. That’s the fun of making your own brew – you get to play with the flavour and tailor it to your taste.