This may be better classified as home brew batch 7 and 1/5 (a la the Mad Hatter…. or the Mad Brewer). I decided to do a micro batch that I could ferment in my handy 1 gallon carboy. I’d been wanting to experiment with mead, and was all set to try a dry-hopped mead with some palisade hops I had left over from another batch, when one of my friends came to the door this week with one of the world’s most bizarre fruits: paw paw.
Believe it or not, paw paw is the largest edible fruit in the United States. It was eaten by native Americans and introduced to European settlers, and it is rumored that one of George Washington’s favorite desserts was chilled paw paw. It’s the most storied fruit you’ve never heard of. Slow Foods has put it on their “Ark of Taste,” their list of endangered foods
Er, so what is it, exactly? Well, for those who live down here in southern Illinois, and for many others who live near a river, you will usually find paw paw plants with enormous flat leaves (looking a bit prehistoric) littered in the fields and forests. The problem is that often they produce no fruit, due to the difficulty of their pollination. You’ve got to catch a lucky paw paw plant with fruit, and you’ve got to catch it right when the fruit is ripe enough to drop. If you wait more than a couple of days, the fruit will already be overripe.
The fruit looks like a green potato on the outside, like custard on the inside, with big dark brown seeds that almost resemble teeth. The flavor is somewhere between a banana, a mango, a papaya and a pineapple–very tropical.
It’s hard to love paw paw initially. The texture is mushy, stringy near the skin, and the flavor, while nice tropically speaking, has an odd after taste. But the sucker grows on you. I could see how George Washington would like it chilled. It would be a fantastic addition to a custard or even gelato.
Of course, my first impulse was to put it in an adult beverage.
So, suddenly, my desire to make mead meshed seamlessly with the small bag of paw paws which had just been delivered to my door (and had come straight out of the forests here in southern Illinois). So, I bought 3 lbs of honey from one of our local honey producers in Pinckneyville, Master’s Touch, and prepared my mead. Here’s the recipe:
Paw Paw Mead
- 2 ripe paw paws
- 3 lbs wildflower honey
- 3/4 gallon water (or enough to top up to 1 gallon after the addition of the honey)
- 1 tbsp champagne yeast
Bring 1/2 gallon of water up to 170 degrees, then turn off the flame. Stir in the honey and let dissolve.
Peel paw paw and cut into chunks. Drop into the bottom of a sanitized 1 gallon fermentation vessel.
Put about a cup of the honey mixture into a sanitized bowl and cool to about 85 degrees. Add the champagne yeast and stir. Cover with Saran Wrap. Cool the rest of the kettle until the honey mixture gets down to 85 degrees. Transfer the mixture into the fermentation vessel with the yeast mixture. Top up with the rest of the water until you hit just over 1 gallon.
I like my wines dry, so I’m going to wait for this to ferment pretty thoroughly. Master’s Touch wildflower honey is wonderfully fruity. Hopefully the tropical fruit flavors of the paw paw will be a nice complement. I may cut the fermentation off a little early in order to keep some of the sweetness. This may make a lovely sauvignon blanc-style wine, in terms of flavor. I will update when I have my first sip!