Fall has most certainly arrived. Heavy Pacific Northwest winds and rains have rendered most of the deciduous trees naked and skeletal for a couple weeks now. It is a welcome sight to look beyond the barn, into the pastures, and see the familiar red glow of the hawthorn berries and rose hips on the otherwise bare limbs and canes. A couple scarlet reminders that the foraging seasons is not quite over yet. As the march to the holiday season hastens its pace, I am thinking about ways to honor this great abundance with which I am blessed. Spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead will a joyful heart make, I think.
Truth is, in another lifetime I “should” have been a winemaker. I went to school and studied enology – even excelled in both the academic and practical applications of the program. I should have been great – I had the skill, instinct, and a good “nose”. But, a troubling lack of confidence sent me in the direction of hospitality and marketing. Seven years in the wine industry left me feeling pretty unfulfilled, but the winemaking bug never really left me.
I am going to admit that I am pretty late to the home-mead making trend. Coming from a background of stainless steel tanks, must pumps, forklifts, and labs – I was intimidated by the thought of reducing fermentation to a scale which I could handle in my home with minimal investment. This last summer I started playing with wildflowers and foraged berries and made my first flavored meads with really great results. Creating this spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead with two of my favorite foraged medicinal seemed quite in order.
Hawthorn Medicinal Benefits
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp) is a thorny, often shrubby, tree that bears sweet-smelling flowers in the spring and red berries in the fall. While both the leaves and flowers also have medicinal value, the berries offer anthocyanins, bioflavonoids, vitamins, and minerals. Hawthorn is a well-regarded cardiovascular tonic. It is thought to strengthen and fortify the heart muscle and is often indicated for use with conditions such as high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and high cholesterol. I look to hawthorn when people share with me complaints of stress with physical tension, heart palpitations, edginess, and anxiety. A bit sweet and sour, the hawthorn berry is considered slightly warming energetically. Hawthorn’s action in less “stimulating” than it is encouraging – like a gentle but persistent friend who always knows what you need.
Rose Hip Medicinal Benefits
Rose hips (Rosa spp) are the fleshy crimson fruit of the ever lovely rose. One is more likely to find rose hips on wild varieties, due to pollination, but all roses are capable of producing hips. Rose hips are almost translucent and jewel-like compared to the earthen autumnal hues this time of year. Practically dripping with vitamin C, rose hips are often included in cold and flu care protocols. Like hawthorn, rose hips are considered both sweet and sour, and slightly warming energetically.
Spiced Hawthorn and Rose Hip Mead
The concept of spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead was born from the desire to create a festive beverage that offered the added benefit of medicinal value. Perhaps I am not alone in admitting that the holidays can be very stressful, so maybe adding a little heart protecting, the antioxidant action is just what the herbalist mead maker ordered. The fact that these two fruits are available to forage at the same time seems to give my intuition evidence that these garnet hued beauties are meant to be together. I decided that the flavors of cinnamon sticks and whole allspice berries would add to the merriment of this spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead without overpowering the honey and fruit notes.
Now, down to the nitty gritty! You want to make mead like a winemaker, huh? You are going to need a few things before making this spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead — besides the hawthorn berries and rose hips. Choose a honey that you really enjoy –the aromatics and flavors really make a difference in the resulting mead. I especially think that an orange blossom honey would do well here. I advise performing the “cold soak” as detailed in the recipe below, to maximize the hawthorn and rose hip extraction. Because this mead is fermented with intact whole berries, I like large mouth gallon size jars fitted wit h a lid/airlock combination like this. As you will need to “punch down” the cap every day or so, these jars make the process easy and the post ferment clean-up a breeze. To “punch down” the cap created by the berries and yeast, simply push through the cap with a sterile spoon, stirring slightly and ensuring that the cap is evenly moist. As I like my wines and mead on the dry side, I chose this champagne yeast from Lalvin (EC-1118) because it has a higher alcohol tolerance and can take this mead to dryness. Should you want a sweeter mead, I would suggest this yeast. Both hawthorn and rose hips are extremely high in pectin, so you will DEFINITELY want to use this pectinase enzyme to break the fruit down, and assist in the clarification process. Cuz, nobody likes a clumpy, thick murky mead. After fermentation and settling, I like to rack into swing top bottles like these. I use a simple tube to siphon, but that can be messy if you are not careful. You might prefer an auto-siphon like this. Remember to keep all your equipment clean and sterilized to ensure a healthy ferment.
I look forward to updating this post in two to three weeks as my spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead completes fermentation. I am hoping to give a few bottles away as gifts and to stockpile a few for myself. Or a lot for myself. Because, holidays..
Spiced Hawthorn & Rose Hip Mead
- 3 cups fresh hawthorn berries cleaned and destemmed
- 1 cup fresh rosehips cleaned OR ½ cup dried rose hips
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon whole all spice berries
- 2 lbs honey
- 6 cups un-chlorinated spring water (plus more for filling jar)
- ½ packet yeast see notes in post about type
Bring water to a simmer in a large stock pot. Remove from heat and add whole hawthorn berries, rose hips, cinnamon sticks and all spice. Cool completely, add 5 drops pectinase enzyme, then chill in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
Remove from refrigerator and gently heat on stove top until the liquid reaches about 90-100 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in honey. Meanwhile, re-hydrate yeast for 20 minutes in about ½ cup warm water (about 100 degrees) and a small pinch of sugar.
Carefully pour berries and liquid into fermentation jar. Add rehydrated yeast and stir well, adding more water to fill the jar to about 1" headspace, if necessary. Place lid fitted with airlock onto the jar. You should see bubbles forming and active fermentation within 2-24 hours.
Place fermentation jar in a warm spot and allow to ferment 2-3 weeks, or until all bubbling of the airlock has ceased, performing a daily "punch down". The berries cap may "fall" to the bottom of jar when fermentation is complete. To increase clarity, add five more drops of pectinase enzyme. Using a tube or auto siphon, rack mead off spent must and yeast lees into a fresh jar for additional settling.
Once satisfied with the clarity of the mead, rack mead into swing top bottles for serving and storage.