The very best medicine is the one you’ll take. When you turn your medicine into mead, it becomes a true pleasure to take. No arm twisting required. Homemade elderberry mead combines honey with elderberries to create a sweet mead that will boost your immune system naturally.
Wild foraged elderberries can be sparse, and it’s often hard to find a dense patch. Birds often beat us to our own elderberry patch. That means we rarely have enough for a full one-gallon batch, let alone a traditional 5-gallon batch. Using a small batch method, we’ve started making a one-quart batch with a mason jar fermentation kit with great results.
There are a lot of great reasons to make a micro-batch mead. Since elderberries can be sparse, a small batch is a perfect way to get a full flavored mead with a small amount of fruit.
While other fruit meads, like this small batch raspberry mead, have you throw in fresh fruit. Elderberries are different. There’s some evidence that they’re toxic if consumed raw. It’s best to juice them on the stove and add the juice to your jar in place of water.
All you need to get started with this elderberry mead is a bit of honey, elderberry juice, a quart mason jar and a mason jar fermentation kit. There are a number of brands to choose from. Try this one. Or this one.
I use a kit by Fermentools that looks a lot like a homebrew setup, and if you choose to do bigger batches later you’ll need the rubber stopper and water lock that are included in the kit.
I’m hoping at some point to try out these silicone fermentation lids from Mason Tops because they look super easy to clean.
Small Batch Elderberry Mead
Start by adding a bit of honey to the bottom of a quart mason jar. The basic instructions for a one-quart batch of mead have you add between 2/3 of a cup of honey and 1 cup of honey to get the right ratio of honey to water in your jar. Since elderberries don’t have much sweetness on their own, I opt for a full cup of honey. The end result will be a bit sweet, but the honey is part of the medicine, so drink up!
Add 3 cups of freshly strained elderberry juice, still hot from the stove. The heat in the juice will help dissolve the honey, without cooking it. Use a wooden spoon and stir the juice into the honey to fully incorporate.
Add the yeast once it’s cooled to room temperature. If you’re not patient enough to let it cool to room temperature, it should be allowed to cool to at least 90 to 100 degrees so it won’t kill the yeast. For meads, I use packages of champagne yeast. One pack is enough to pitch a 5-gallon batch, so using the whole packet is overkill for a small one-quart batch.
I usually use about 1/4 of a yeast packet because it’s hard to actually extract less than that from a tiny packet. Dissolve the yeast in room temperature chlorine-free water and pour it into your mason jar.
Once it’s all said and done you should have 1 cup honey, 3 cups elderberry juice and about 1/4 of a packet of champagne yeast in your mason jar. Be sure to leave about an inch of headspace to allow for expansion and bubbling during fermentation.
Cap your mason jar using the mason jar fermentation kit of your choice and allow it to ferment at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for about 6 weeks.
The initial fermentation phase can be a bit intense, so after the first week if any juice has made it into your water lock, pop it off and clean it out. Be sure to get it back on tight for the rest of your fermentation time.
When fermentation is complete, carefully pour off the mead into another jar, leaving the sediment behind.
I bottle mine, and allow it to age in Grolsch bottles for at least 2 weeks, preferably a bit longer.
If you’re looking for more details on how to make a small batch mead, you can read an introduction to the one-quart small batch method here.