Spicy peppadew mead

This spicy peppadew mead is an exotic change from your more usual sweet melomels; for those who are not afraid to experiment with something different. It's not cheap to make, using about R400 of quality natural honey; you'll get 5 litres of pure gold for your efforts.

It's akin to the latest rage; completely natural wine.

Experimenting with mead is really only for beekeepers; or those with money jingling in their pockets and time on their hands; there's no point in going to all this effort using commercial honey and ending up with a second-rate product.

A glass of spicy peppadew mead.

It's important to make a few notes; the date you started the mead, the pH and SG readings. What you did to correct the acidity at each stage too is vital.

Since this spicy peppadew mead has fruit in it we should really call it a melomel.

Honey mead in a carboy.

The honey for our spicy peppadew mead today comes from three sources; burr comb which can be seen floating, that extracted from the cappings, the so-called gleanings and some liquid natural honey straight from the bottling tank.

You can use any combination you like. Use of the cappings and comb means plenty of nutrients for the yeast. It is sometimes called an all-hive mead; no artificial chemicals like malic or citric acid need be added.

Ingredients (5L)

  • 5 litre carboy or demijohn
  • 5 peppadews
  • 2 kg natural, unheated honey
  • Juice and pulp of 1 orange
  • 20 g orange zest
  • 1 teabag
  • Boiled rainwater
  • 1 tsp white wine yeast
  • Small piece of honeycomb with fresh pollen

20 litres

  • 23L carboy
  • 20 peppadews
  • 8kg honey and/ or cappings[1]
  • 2 oranges
  • 40 g zest
  • 4 teaspoons loose tea
  • Boiled rainwater
  • 1.5 tsp wine yeast
  • Honeycomb with fresh pollen

Go for it

  1. Sterilise the equipment.
  2. Remove all peppadew stems and seeds.
  3. Boil the tea and zest; allow to draw for 20 minutes.
  4. Pour the honey first and then the hot tea into the carboy.
  5. Add the peppadews, comb and orange pulp; marbles.
  6. Add rainwater, stirring to dissolve the honey.
  7. Measure the pH, temperature and specific gravity.
  8. Shake vigorously for ten minutes to aerate the mixture.
  9. 1 tsp of yeast into half a cup of warm water; after 20 mins add to the mixture.
  10. Top up leaving a small air-gap and fit the bubbler; allow for foaming.

Place the fruit in a muslin bag with marbles to weight it down so that the peppadews and oranges do not float above the surface.

Spicy peppadew mead with marble weights.

Black tea acts as an astringent. Brew for twenty-minutes and strain well.

Peppadew mead with oranges and tea.

Stage 2

  1. Leave the brew to ferment gently for about two months. If necessary keep warm.
  2. Test the pH and SG; add bicarb or tartaric acid to get the acidity into 3.5 - 4.5 range.
  3. Siphon into a clean, sterilized demijohns.
  4. Top up using a mixture of honey and boiled water.
  5. Fit a bung. 

On 3rd August, 2022, the pH was 2.0, quite acidic, and the SG was 1.050; the spicy peppadew mead tasted delicious. It was still fermenting.

I removed the bag with peppadews, lemons and marbles.

Adjusting the pH

Add 1.25ml of sodium bicarbonate per 0.5 adjustment on 5 litres.

To raise the pH from 2.0 to 3.5 one would need 3 x 1.25ml = 3.75; about half a teaspoon.

For 15 litres of spicy peppadew mead I added 3 x 3.75 = 11.25 ml of bicarb; about 2 tsp. You can always use more later at a subsequent racking.

On the 15th August I racked the spicy peppadew mead into three 5 litre demijohns, all fitted with air-traps. The pH was 4.0 which is perfect. SG was 1.040; it's still bubbling gently. Gosh, this tastes unbelievably good.

Peppadew and cherry guava meads.

Stage 3

  1. 3 months later, again test pH and SG.
  2. If necessary again add bicarb or tartaric acid; I would prefer lemon juice to lower the pH.
  3. Siphon into another three clean, sterilized demijohns.
  4. Top up and fit the bung.

On 13th November I racked the spicy peppadew mead for a second time. Fermentation continues very slowly; just a few bubbles. The pH was 3 and the SG 1.03.

Although the mead has not cleared completely since it is still fermenting, one demijohn has been bottled for immediate consumption. It is spectacularly good.

The other two demijohns have been set aside to mature and clear.

Stage 4

After 6 months siphon into clear wine-bottles.

Cappings

Cappings contain about 38% honey but this is very dependent on how long they are left to drip and whether a hot knife, roller or spatula has been used.

These gleanings can be used to make your spicy peppadew mead. So, to get 2kg of honey you would need about 5 kilograms of cappings.

If using twenty litres of water you would need to make up 20kg of cappings, or some liquid honey. They would most likely contain plenty of pollen; nutrients for the yeast.

Place the cappings in a large bucket with rain water at about 50oC and stir until the honey has dissolved; allow to sit for a few hours as the liquid penetrates the cells and then agitate vigorously.

Filter off most of the wax and pour the liquid into the carboy together with the tea and spicy peppadews.

Too much wax means you will not be able to add enough rainwater.

There are concerns about the fruit floating at the surface and out of the liquid. This can be countered by using a porous bag with marbles to weight the spicy peppadews down. The wax-cappings adding yet more nutrients for the yeast.

Next year I will be experimenting with smooth river pebbles for weights; properly sterilised, of course.

In short there are many different ways to make your spicy peppadew mead.

Bucketful of peppadews.

Spicy peppadew mead

This spicy peppadew mead is for those who love brewing and wish to provide the known benefits of the chili family to some of the nether parts of the body.

It is sometimes called a spicy peppadew capsicumel.

Capsaicin

Capsaicin is one of the important phytonutrient founds in spicy peppers. It is a powerful painkiller, limiting substance P and has benefits for the prostate gland where it slows the spread of malignant tumours[2].

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