I mentioned in the post on Cherry Melomel that different additives give mead different names. The problem with these names is that if you go off-recipe (as I often do), it’s not always obvious what to call your creations. Last time I started a batch of Cherry Melomel, a mead with chopped cherries. This time I was cleaning out my fridge and found two containers of juice that needed to go: Cherry cider and Apple Cider. I mixed the two with my remaining honey to make another batch of flavored mead.
A fermented beverage with apple cider and honey is typically called a “Cyser“. I think it’s a weird play on “cider” (many of these mead variety names have a ‘y’ jammed in the name somewhere, for reasons I do not understand). A cherry mead doesn’t really have a common special name, besides the generic “Cherry Melomel”. Unlike the Cherry Melomel that I started last time, this batch uses a blend of cherry juice and apple cider instead of water and whole cherries.
The apple cider isn’t the most prominent ingredient, so I hesitated to call this a cyser, but then again my last recipe was called “Cherry Melomel”, so I have to call this something different.
Cherry Cyser (Cherry Melomel)
- 3 Cups Cherry Cider
- 2 Cups Sweet Apple Cider
- 3 Cups water (bottled spring water) 
- 1 Cup Honey
- Yeast 
- Yeast nutrient or other chemicals 
Mix the cherry cider, apple cider, water and honey in a large stock pot. Under medium-low heat, bring the mixture up to a near boil (do not boil completely, about 170°F) and pasteurize like this for 10 minutes . Stir frequently, adjust temperature so it does not boil, and skim some of the foam off the top if possible. When pasteurization is complete, turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (no warmer than 100°F)
During this time, sanitize your primary fermentation container, funnel, airlock and any other equipment.
Funnel your mixture into the fermentation container. Pitch in your yeast, yeast nutrient and any other chemicals you need. Cap and shake to distribute the ingredients and give a little oxygen to get the yeast started. Apply the airlock and allow to ferment, undisturbed, about 2 weeks or until bubbling has stopped or slowed to a crawl. After that, rack to secondary and allow to condition (racking every few weeks, as needed) until the mead is clear and good to drink.
One thing I didn’t realize in my haste, was that the apple cider I used this time (unlike the cider used in my first two batches of hard cider) contained Potassium Sorbate. Potassium Sorbate is a preservative that prevents yeast from reproducing. Manufacturers use pasteurization to kill existing yeast, and add potassium sorbate to prevent newly added yeast from propagating.
When I pitched my yeast into the mixture nothing happened. The potassium sorbate was preventing the inactive yeast from reactivating and getting the fermentation process started.
To get around this issue, and prevente myself from wasting all the valuable (and tasty ingredients) I created a starter. Potassium Sorbate only stops yeast from reproducing, it doesn’t stop existing yeast from going about normal business. If you create a starter, the yeast can grow and reproduce a little bit first, before you pitch it into the mead. This allows fermentation to continue like normal. A starter basically contains:
- Honey or sugar (I used about 1 Tbsp honey)
- Water (I used about 3Tbsp, bottled spring water)
Mix the ingredients together and allow to sit, loosely covered, overnight. The mixture should be bubbly or fizzy by the morning. Pitch in this mixture to your mead, and wait for it to start bubbling.
After the initial scare from the potassium sorbate, the wort fermented actively. After the first day, there was no indication that anything was off about it.
I grabbed a small taste when I racked it the first time. This mixture was much drier than my previous cherry melomel, and had a good amount of fizz in it. The was decent, kind of ale-like, a little harsh, and with very little cherry or apple flavor to be found. I’m hoping that after a month or two of conditioning the harshness will go away and some of the fruit flavors will start to shine through again.
- I used the cider I had available, 3 cups of the cherry and 2 cups of the apple. I topped off with water. If I had more cider, I would have used it instead of the water.
- I used my remaining packet of champagne yeast
- I used basic yeast nutrient, but there are other things that could be tried. Pectic Enzyme might be helpful if you’re looking for a clear result (I don’t care about clarity). Eventually, something like a metabisulfite would be used to kill off the remaining yeasts when fermentation is complete
- If you have a thermometer, your mixture should be over 180°F for 10 minutes. I don’t, so I winged it.
- Yeast may like to be pitched at a temperature higher than room temperature, to jolt them back into action. Follow whatever instructions come with your yeast.