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May Day mead MEAD
Sparkling Finnish May Day drink

Mead made according to this recipe is virtually alcohol-free *) and is suitable for children to drink. Mead is a popular drink in Finland during the May Day celebration.

Read more about mead here.

4 l water
250 g soft brown sugar (firmly packed)
250 g regular white sugar
1½ - 2 lemons (preferably organic)
1/8 tsp fresh yeast

Note: sterilize all the equipment you will use  —  jars, lids, cheesecloth, saucepans, spoons, funnels, bottles, caps, etc  —  with boiling water.

If the brown sugar you are using is very dark and/or strong in flavour, and if you want the mead to be lighter in colour and taste, replace some more of the brown sugar with white sugar. This mead should be light and fresh, with a clean, balanced flavour of lemon and the sugars and not of stuffy molasses.

Pour the sugars in a clean, heatproof large glass jar rinsed with boiling water. Wash and brush the lemons under hot running water. In thin strips, peel out their yellow zest, place in a strainer and rinse with boiling water. Halve the peeled lemons and squeeze out their juice.

Bring the water to the boil and pour about half of it on the sugars in the jar. After the sugar has dissolved, add the lemon juice and zest. Let the mixture stand until it is lukewarm. Also let the other half of water cool until lukewarm (about 37 °C ).

Mead with May Day treats Dissolve the yeast in a small amount of the water and add to the lukewarm sugar mixture along with the rest of the lukewarm water. Stir thoroughly, cover with a loose lid or cloth and let stand overnight at room temperature. The mixture should begin to ferment within a day, ie carbon dioxide is released, making the mixture slightly fizzy.

Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with a clean, fine cheesecloth and pour in sterilized bottles. Add about 1 teaspoon sugar and 5 - 10 raisins in every bottle. Raisins can be omitted. Close the bottles with tight-fitting caps.

Picture on right: glass of sparkling mead with Finnish May Day treats  —  jelly doughnuts and a May Day fritter.

Let the mead bottles stand at room temperature for about 3 hours before transferring them in cold storage, like a cold cellar or refrigerator. The fermentation will continue in the bottles so it is advisable to store them in cold, or else the pressure building inside the bottles may break them. This is why it is also important not to exceed the amount of yeast given in the recipe.

The mead will be ready to drink after about one week or two. It will be drinkable as soon as the raisins in the bottles have risen on the surface of mead, but its taste will improve if it is stored for a bit longer.
Makes about 4 - 4½ litres of mead.

*) In Finland, commercially sold beverages containing alcohol less than 2,8 % by volume are classified non-alcoholic. Store-bought meads typically have an alcohol content ranging between 0,5 and 2,8 %. Homemade mead may contain a very low amount of alcohol, but when made following this recipe, it is still suitable for children to drink.

Recipe source: traditional Finnish recipe.


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