Yesterday we discussed the differences and similarities between honey wine and mead – today we`ll share the process of making a simple honey wine in based loosely on the style of Ethiopian T`ej. Ours is currently in process so I can`t comment on the final flavor yet but am pleased with how the flavor changed in the initial days. We`ll be dipping into our stock before the New Year – and if you act fast, you can too!
These instructions are based on the recipe presented in Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Sandor (also known as `Sandorkraut`) is an amazing ambassador of fermentation and his book, website and forums are amazing resources any that those interested in fermenting would appreciate. The recipe is based on a bunch of further reading on T`ej and Mead that produced yesterdays article.
My research showed me that the term Tèj is almost as generic as the words wine or beer. There are many varieties across Ethiopia and other places where it`s made. It`s base ingredients are always water and honey. Gesho (a bittering agent) is added by many (with hops replacing it where Gesho can`t be found). The third most common variation adds fruit; from there it`s a free-for-all of variations.
We`ve decided to make a straight-up honey wine – I suspect with time we`ll evolve the recipe and variations and hoping by next summer to do several small-batch versions with seasonal fruit.
To make T`ej it`s simplest to start with a crock. You could use a mason jar but the large surface area of a crock will offer increased access to natural yeasts that will get your fermentation rocking.
Here`s how to make it:
- Pour honey into the crock. Unpasteurized honey is critical and raw is best.
- Add an equal measure of room-temperature water and stir until dissolved.
- Add 3 more measures of water (the total ratio is 1 honey to 4 water. Stir well to ensure a consistent texture in the crock. Have a taste – it will be very sweet.
- Cover with a dishcloth or cheese cloth. You want to keep dust and critters out – but allow natural yeast to access your liquid.
- Store in a warm place (ideally between 60 and 80 degrees). We kept ours on the table (our dog loves sweet things) which was 65-70 degrees.
- Stir often; at least twice a day but as often as you`d like.
- It will take 3-6 days (the colder, the longer) for the initial ferment to occur. You`ll know it`s occured when it gets fizzy. I couldn`t see the bubbles in our crock but could clearly hear it when I stirred it.
- Syphon into a fermenting vessel. I bought 1-gallon jugs at a DIY wine store. If you don`t have enough to fill the bottle you can add honey and water in the 1-4 ratio. Because I had 2 jugs, I filled each to roughly the same height so that each had the minimum possible addition of fresh honey-water.
- Cap the jar with an airlock (again available at such a wine store).
- Place the mixture in a warm area for 2-4 weeks. You`re waiting for the bubbling to stop.
- Syphon the honey wine into bottles (you can buy them, use your own with a sealer or use Grolsch type bottles with the snap tops). Drink fresh (as is commonly done with T`ej) or age as long as you want; many will age for years.
I tasted it as I stirred it over days. For the first few days the mixture was awfully sweet. As the ferment began to take hold I could taste the brew starting to ground itself and really liked the taste by the end of the 6 days I let it mature. It`s flavor will develop over time in the bottles as well and I`ll try to keep a bottle or two to the side to see what happens.
Have you made or drank T`ej before? What did you think of it? What do you do differently?