On Saturday I’ll be presenting at the 2016 Less is More festival in Peppermint Grove. I gave a presentation last year, on urban livestock, and I really enjoyed the experience. I’ve signed up to present again this year, this time on beekeeping.
I’m no expert bee-keeper, but I do have bees and I love them. They’re fascinating, and very low maintenance, and they produce amazing honey from the flowers around here. My first introduction to bees as anything other than a flying insect in my garden was in Melbourne a few years ago. I did a one day “intro to beekeeping” course at Ceres, which is Melbourne’s equivalent to City Farm. I’ve always loved honey, and after that course I was hooked on the idea that I could keep bees for myself, to produce honey and to help the environment.
One of the best things about having bees around is the honey the produce (although the pollination services they provide are also very important!), and the things you can do with it. Honey isn’t just for eating on scones or toast – you can bake with it, replace sugar with it when making jam, trickle it over carrots or pumpkin before roasting, add it to your tea, and you can make mead with it.
Mead is an alcoholic drink, similar to beer or wine, made with honey. A spiced mead is called a metheglin, and a mead made with fruit juice as well as honey and water is called melomel. The recipe below is for a simple apple and honey melomel.
750 ml water
250 ml raw, unprocessed honey
250 ml apple juice (cloudy apple juice is best, but clear juice is ok too)
1 teaspoon freeze-dried bread yeast
- Start by making sure all your equipment is clean and sterilised. Miltons tablets (available from chemists) are sold for sterilising baby bottles, and are great for sterilising gear without using heat.
- Combine the honey and water in a saucepan, and heat until the mixture is just boiling (about 80 – 90°C). Cover and leave to cool to room temperature.
- Gently warm the apple juice to about 30°C (the temperature that it feels just warm if you dip a clean finger in). Stir in the yeast, and leave it to stand for 5 – 10 minutes, until foamy.
- Stir the apple juice and yeast into the honey-water, and pour the mixture into a 1.5 litre bottle, then add a fermentation lock. (This is a device that allows carbon dioxide form the fermentation process to escape, but does not allow bacteria or moulds to get into the bottle)
- Somewhere between an hour and twenty-four hours later the mead will start to bubble, as the yeast turns the sugars into alcohol. In summer in Perth you can have a sweet, fizzy mead after fermenting overnight; if you want a drier drink or the weather is colder, leave it longer.