"Jack, you once mentioned a maraschino-chocolate mead. Did you bottle it?" a friend
This recipe was inspired by a couple in Sharps Chapel, Tennessee who sent me some wonderful wines and meads and shared with me their secret for infusing chocolate flavors into their wines. They had made a maraschino-chocolate wine and I decided to tweak it a bit and make a sweet mead.
I shared this recipe on my WineBlog in January, 2007. It created a flood of email when people bought a different brand of cherry and it had benzoic acid in it as a preservative; benzoic acid is like potassium sorbate in that it prevents yeast from budding (reproducing). Select the right cherry, but even then read the ingredients label; Mezzetta might start adding benzoic acid too.
Also, a word of caution about bitterness. Cocoa powder, although a fine, dry solid, contains essential oils largely responsible for the chocolate taste. These oils impart a bitterness when the wine or mead is young, but the oils break down in time and the bitterness disappears. Follow the aging instructions in the recipe or you will be disappointed.
Finally, a word about yeast. The starting specific gravity of the must was 1.152, which is very high, so you must use a yeast strain that can handle the high sugar density initially and still finish sweet.
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Mix the honey with a quart of water in a large pot and bring to 140 degrees F. for about 25 minutes to kill any compromising organisms; skim foamy scum off surface (the higher the quality of honey, the less scum there will be). Set it aside to cool. Open jar of cherries and strain the syrup into the cooled honey. Chop the cherries, place in nylon straining bag, tie closed and set aside in bowl. Measure the cocoa powder in dry ounces and add to one pint of warm water in a blender until thoroughly mixed. Added tannin and other dry ingredients (less the yeast) to ensure all are well mixed, and then added this to the honey. Bring liquid to one gallon in primary and add activated yeast in starter solution. Add bag of cherries and cover primary. Punch down the bag of chopped cherries several times a day, checking their condition after several days. When they start looking ravaged by the yeast, remove the bag and gently squeeze it to extract readily available liquid -- do NOT squeeze hard or the mead may not clear. When fermentation slows down, regardless of s.g., transfer to secondary and cap with an airlock. Allow fermentation to finish and rack it, but if it is still fermenting after 3 months rack it anyway. After 60 days rack again and top up with distilled water (this will not noticeably affect the flavor or alcohol level). Wait 60 days and rack again, topping up as before. Set aside one year to bulk age and allow the essential oils to break down. Bottle and age an additional 9 to 12 months before tasting. [Author's own recipe]
My thanks to my friend for requesting this recipe.