How to Make T’ej
T’ej (Ethiopian-style Honey Wine) is a spontaneously fermented mead. Spontaneous fermentation means that no lab-grown yeast is added to ferment the honey water. Instead, the wild yeast and bacteria present in the air are used. I have made my fair share of mead but have always used a little packet of wine yeast I pick up at the brew store. What could be more local and unique than the yeast floating around in the air around your house?
With a little guidance from Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Katz, I made up a recipe for Peach Ginger T’ej and started brewing.
1 gallon (or larger) ceramic crock, wide-mouth glass jar, or plastic bucket
1 gallon glass jug
Drilled stopper that fits in the jug
Ingredients (for 1 gallon):
3 cups raw honey
12 cups water
4 ripe organic peaches, quartered and pits removed
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated (peel and all)
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp cardamom, crushed
3 whole star anise, crushed
1/2 tsp rosemary, fresh or dried
A handful of fresh, unwashed blueberries from your backyard (if you have them)
Boil water. Add grated ginger and boil 10 min. Add cinnamon stick, cardamom, star anise, and rosemary, cover, and remove from heat.
Stir in honey after 10 minutes and chill to room temperature in an ice bath.
Add sliced peaches to fermentor (1-gallon wide mouth glass jar in this case). Pour honey mixture in, straining out spices. Add the blueberries that I mentioned above if you have them. You can use any other clean fresh fruit that you may have available. I did this because I figured the blueberries were probably covered with lots of wild yeast.
Cover with cheesecloth and set in a warm spot (set outside in a shady spot for a few hours a day if you can).
Stir twice a day and remove peaches with a slotted spoon after 2 days. Transfer to jug after 3-4 days when the brew starts to be bubbly. If the jug is not full, add water and honey in a 4:1 ratio to fill. Cork with an airlock.
Leave for 2 to 4 weeks, until bubbling slows. Drink (or bottle for aging).