I am new to all the alcoholic ferments but have been making fermented foods for a few years now, so I have a bit of experience with fermentation in general. I wanted to expand things a bit by starting in on something alcoholic that I can source locally and cheaply. So I decided on some mead, perry, cider, and cyser ferments as I have access to large amounts of apples, pears, and honey where I live for relatively cheap.
Cheap - local raw honey $32 for 12 lbs, some of the best I've had. Close to free - most orchardists will sell the seconds for about 20¢ a pound. Free if you know the right places/people - there are LOTS of feral apple, pear, and other fruit tress all over the area here, and my friend used to be an organic pear orchardist. So I have potential access to hundreds of pounds of free fruit, access to tons of cheap fruit, and some pretty inexpensive, very tasty, local raw honey.
So I spent the past few months researching all things relating to alcoholic fermentation that I could find online and off. I have read tons of articles, manuals, directions, instructions, formulas, exacting measurements, standards, absolute sterility requirements, and the almost total dismissal of "wild" or "open" fermentation as being too unpredictable, wasteful, not worth the chance of it not being "perfect", etc... It is just these qualities I look for, not the absolute perfectionism of getting the exact same thing every time. I have no problems with the different flavors, aromas, textures, tastes, etc of "wild" and/or "open" ferments. In fact that is the exact reason that I cherish them so much is the variability of all these factors. If I wanted the same old stuff every time I'd still be buying it in the store, not making it at home (provided I could find anything in the stores!) OK, rant over...
The cider/juice/must consists of: 5 types of feral apples, Winesap seconds, 2 types of crab apples, and local organic unfiltered pasteurized chemical free not from concentrate apple juice. There were 5 gallons originally, but 2 of them never made it to the carboys >;} I currently have the 3 gallons of cider divided into 3 different containers, 1 gallon has a large collection of herbs and spices in it - more of a metheglin, the other 2 gallons have had hone added later in the process after most of the sugars fermented out (That was about 6 days into the ferment by the taste and airlock activity).
All of the containers have some raisins that we harvested from our neighbors grape vines and dehydrated ourselves. I'm planning to try and make some wine with some next year as we harvested about 75 lbs of grapes from her vines this year and last year as well (Pyment maybe?). And I added about a pound of evaporated cane juice to the entire batch just to give it a kick start, and for some nutrients as well (Reconstituted with artesian well/spring water, the well/spring is only 2 blocks from our house).
I am going to stick with not using any additives to change the taste, color, clarity, etc. The addition of tannin, acids, enzymes, refined sugars (BLEH!), splenda (DOUBLE BLEH & BLEH on splenda!!), other sugar substitutes and sweeteners, modifiers, amendments, etc, may be fine in other peoples ferments but not in MY ferments. Other people feel free to do as your taste demands, and I will do as mine demands. Second rant over...
I like to have a taste of the wild so the first 5 days were wild ferment, but it seems the wild yeast almost stopped after this time, so I pitched some Lalvin D47 yeast with the honey, and we'll see where this leads... So far the smell is yummy, and the small samples I take when checking on things are getting a nice tartness that was not in the original cider/juice/must. No hints of sourness, just tartness.
I do not have a refractometer, hydrometer, or any other measuring device to figure the exact measurements of sugars/alcohols/etc. I may get something in the future. But I am not overly concerned with the exact amounts of sugars and alcohols in my ferments. Just as long as they have pleasant before/during/after flavors, and a nice mild alcoholic component to enjoy. I prefer to go more on a full sensory tour of my fermentation process rather than an exacting formula/recipe.
And an update before I hit the submit button: I decided to make just a plain as plain can be mead for my first attempt. I combined about 1.5 lbs of honey (Just upped that to a little closer to 2.25 lbs), artesian water to fill up the 2 quart jar, a gram or so of Lalvin D47 yeast re-hydrated before pitching, homemade raisins from our neighbors vines, and a tiny bit of pink sea salt for trace minerals, stirred the snot out of it for about 10-15 minutes, and now it is resting for the night.
Getting lots of activity just a few hours later.
After only 1 night sleeping I have had to stir ALL the ferments down 3 times today or they bubble and foam so much they threaten to blow through the airlocks, and the temps are about 55°F to 65°F, night to day respectively, so I don't thinks it's high temps causing the vigorousness of the ferment, just happily fed yeastie-beasts.
I love the fizzy, bubbling, burping sounds and smells of ferments in the house again. I look forward to making this a regular spectacle at the house. All of my ferments are right out in the open for everyone to watch and enjoy like aquariums full of my invisible alcohol spewing yeastie-beasts. (I read somewhere that mead is art of turning bee puke into yeast piss)...
I'll be starting a mead log just as soon as I get myself a little more organized in the next day or two.. Looking forward to this so much! I have been wanting to make mead/cider/cyser/metheglin/etc for a VERY LONG time (For over 20 years so far, half my life and more even)
Please feel free to critique, suggest, and give any advice you can think of... I am a total noob and need as much guidance as I can get. I may know the basics, some of the terminology, concepts, etc, but I am far from even a novice when it comes to alcoholic ferments.