Last week I started a cherry mead and discovered yesterday that it had turned to vinegar (and not even nice-tasting cherry-flavoured vinegar - it smelled and tasted awful, though the colour was great). I'm not sure how this happened, so I'm posting what I did in the hopes that someone can diagnose the problem before I try again.
- Boil 4 litres (I make mead in a 5L jar on my kitchen counter - my apartment is not big enough for rows of carboys!) of water for 25 minutes.
- Reduce heat to below boiling and add 1 kg (about 1L) of honey (plain, Billy Bee honey).
- Remove scum from surface until no more scum forms.
- Add 500 ml of washed, diced, pitted black cherries (tied up in a cheesecloth) to the water and honey
- Add 750 ml of black cherry juice (bought at a nearby health-food store), because I didn't have very many cherries left.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Cool, add to fermentation jar, pitch yeast (Lalvin champagne yeast).
An observation: this batch fermented far faster and far more vigorously and violently than any other batch! Almost all of the sugar was consumed by fermentation within 4 days. In all my other batches, it typically took 8 to 12 days for this much sugar to be consumed.
I have used this variants of this process (minus the fruit), steps 1 - 3 and 7 for almost a dozen batches (all successful so far) over the past two years, so I'm thinking the problem was in the fruit.
This was actually my second fruit mead - the first one was with strawberries, and they were thrown in at the beginning of the process (Step 1, when boiling the water), I thought it would be important to sterilize them. I later read that fruit should not be boiled, or pectin would form and result in a very cloudy mead (and yes, the strawberry mead was tasty but also cloudy), and also possibly affect the flavour.
So I've been wondering about where the failure was:
- The cherries - Should they have been boiled, or sterilized in some other way? I have also read recipes that involve putting the cherries in during fermentation but to me that seems to carry an even greater risk of infection from outside sources.
- Would I have better luck with frozen cherries (or other fruit), assuming that the frozen fruit is somehow sterilized before it's frozen?
- The cherry juice - It was supposed to have been pasteurized, but I admit I opened it a little before I made the mead, just to taste it.
- Bad luck??
- Something else in this process that I missed?
It was also suggested to me by a friend that cinnamon has antibacterial properties so I should put 1 or 2 sticks in when boiling the water (they also said the juice of one lime would work as well, but I'm not sure about that and I worry it would have a strong impact on the flavour).