Last weekend we travelled to Abbotsford to visit our sons. It was a whirl wind trip driving through snow on Friday morning and returning late at night on Saturday, through more snow. On Saturday afternoon, Chris, our eldest, took us to visit one of his favourite spots in Abbotsford — Campbell’s Gold, a honey farm and meadery. We met Judy Campbell, a gracious woman and knowledgeable honey farmer. Judy treated us to a mead tasting.
We had tried a lovely honey wine (mead) at Chris’ place on Friday night and knew that we wanted to bring a bottle home for Christmas dinner. Judy poured other mead samples for us to try. Elderberry, the dessert mead was just too sweet for us. The Metheglyn, a spiced honey wine, was too powerful for our simple tastes. We settled on the Campbell’s Gold Dry Black Currant, vintage 2010 and the sweet Mead that we tried at Chris’ place. The choice made we had time to look through Judy’s shop.
It was a, “Wow” experience. The airy, bright Country Store was wood throughout, with bright local art displayed on the walls. There were many kinds of honey from cranberry, blueberry, and lavender, to alfalfa, apple blossom, and wild flower. The Campbell’s bees are grazed in several areas throughout the province and bring home different flavours of honey depending on the pollen that they pick up. There was a table overflowing with small jars of honey for testing. I tried lavender honey and cranberry honey. Judy confided that the bees don’t do well on cranberry blossoms and have to have a rich feed of alfalfa after the cranberry farm, so they move them up North for a few weeks, after grazing them at the cranberry bogs.
Of the lavender honey, Judy has both infused lavender honey and honey from the bees feeding on lavender. I opted for the real thing. My honey choices made, I browsed through the store.
The Country Store was filled with local artisan crafts — bees wax candles and honey soaps, of course, as well as pottery, hand knits in a bee theme, some quilted hangings, and wood crafts. It was a cheery and inspiring visit.
Their brochure lists 15 different products, besides Mead, that they craft from their own bee keeping. They also offer structure tours, self directed tours, and special events at the farm. About themselves they say, “Campbell’s Gold Honey Farm, Country Store and Meadery is a ‘sweet’ Fraser Valley experience not to be missed and so much more than you would expect! Committed to educating and sharing their passion for the honey bee and its importance to our world…”
Judy is a strong supporter and promoter of local agriculture and local artisans. Campbell’s Gold is part of the Circle Farm tour for Abbotsford, as well as part of the Passport to Christmas in the Fraser Valley. If you are planning a homestead business and looking for ideas, Judy and Mike Campbell are doing it right. Travelling to Abbotsford? Pay a visit to Campbell’s Gold and see what Judy and Mike are doing with their bees.
The Mystery of Mead Revealed
Now what exactly is mead? Mead is one of the first fermented drinks of Northern Europe, an area too cold for grape growing. It is cloaked in mystery, like many medieval processes, and protected by guild intrigue. Mead is wine made from honey, water and yeast. No sugar added. Mead requires a longer fermentation time to age the flavour, so look for vintage that’s at least a year old, if you’re purchasing from a Meadery. Mead can be dressed up with fruit or spices, mixed with wine grapes or not. The Campbell’s carry examples of each of these.
1 – 750 ml bottle of Mead at Campbell’s Gold will cost you $20. A bottle of Mead has 1/2 lb. of honey, plus water and yeast, a simple recipe.
Do you want to try your hand at making your own Mead? If you’ve made homemade wine before, Mead isn’t a huge leap. Here’s a basic tutorial. Follow the links below for an indepth home education adventure in this Medieval Art.
Equipment for success:
A 1 gallon or 5 gallon glass carboy (I recycled a 1 gallon glass apple cider jug)
A 2 gallon or 6 gallon bucket to hold the must (the must expands as it bubbles so this bucket needs to be larger than your batch size)
Cheese cloth to cover the bucket
String to secure the cheese cloth
An airlock to fit your carboy
5 glass wine bottles or 25 glass wine bottles, depending on the size of your batch
Corks and a corker to seal the bottles
Optional wine bottle labels
A plastic hose to decant the wine
Basic Mead Recipe (Makes 1 gallon – 5 bottles):
3 lbs of Honey, (the quality of the honey affects the final product. Get it direct from the farm and avoid imported products that have been super filtered.)
5 litres of spring water or filtered water,
1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient
1 teaspoon of yeast energizer
1 packet of champagne yeast
The steps are the same as making any wine:
1. Sterilize your carboy, and equipment.
2. Put honey and spring water into sterilized bucket and add the yeast, yeast energizer and yeast nutrient. This is the must. Allow the must to ferment for two weeks. It will be nice and bubbly.
3. Decant the must into a glass carboy, leave any sludge behind in the bucket, and cap the carboy with an airlock. Leave for up to 2 months until there is no more bubbling in the bottle — the more honey in the recipe the longer the ferment at this stage.
4. Decant into sterilized bottles and cork.
5. Store bottles for 3 month to a year before trying the Mead. Age improves the flavours.
Mead is a blank canvas and lends itself to mixing with other flavours like fruit, spices or even wine grapes. Here’s a list of several Mead recipes from Storming the Castle. Dig a little deeper in the site and you’ll discover step by step videos and tutorials to instruct you in the secret and most ancient art of making Mead.
If this is your first time here, check out the Start Here page to see what this website is all about. And if you found this article helpful please share it with your friends, link to it on Facebook, tweet about it on twitter. Send me some link love and I’ll return the favour.
Have you made your own wine? Ever made mead? Tell your story in the comments.
The Compleat Meadmaker : Home Production of Honey Wine From Your First Batch to Award-winning Fruit and Herb Variations
The Secret Art of Mead Making Revealed
Making Mead (Honey Wine): History, Recipes, Methods and Equipment
Mad About Mead: Nectar of the Gods
5 Gallon Glass Carboy For Beer or Wine Making
Drilled Rubber Stopper (Carboy Bung Sets of 3)