Slow and Steady — Slow Cooker Bochet

Bochet, a mead that is made with caramelized honey, is a great way to use a more generic honey like wildflower as the caramelizing of honey adds an additional layer of flavour that can consist of caramel, toffee and marshmallow notes. Often time, the delicate floral of the honey is still left behind. If entering into competitions, should be entered into the M4C: Experimental catergory. There’s a recipe from 1393 for a bochet from Le Menagier de Paris

“BOUCHET. To make six sesters of bouchet, take six pints of fine sweet honey, and put it in a cauldron on the fire and boil it, and stir continually until it starts to grow, and you see that it is producing bubbles like small globules which burst, and as they burst emit a little smoke which is sort of dark: and then stir, and then add seven sixths of water and boil until it reduces to six sixths again, and keep stirring. And then put it in a tub to cool until it is just warm; and then strain it through a cloth bag, and then put it in a cask and add one chopine (half-litre) of beer-yeast, for it is this which makes it the most piquant, (and if you use bread yeast, however much you like the taste, the colour will be insipid), and cover it well and warmly to work. And if you want to make it very good, add an ounce of ginger, long pepper, grains of Paradise and cloves in equal amounts, except for the cloves of which there should be less, and put them in a cloth bag and throw in. And after two or three days, if the bouchet smells spicy enough and is strong enough, take out the spice-bag and squeeze it and put it in the next barrel you make. And thus you will be able to use these same spices three or four times.” 

Le Menagier de Paris, 1393

There’re a few ways of that you can caramelize honey—stove top pot, boil kettle, slow cooker, pressure cooker. While the recipe from 1393 calls for “a little smoke which is sort of dark”, don’t actually cook your honey until it’s smoking. The best to know if it’s done is by colour and taste. I decided to go with the slow cooker method as I couldn’t carve out the 30-45 minutes I might have needed to watch the pot if I did it on the stove top.

I just have the basic crock pot with two settings for heat, so I had the crock pot set to high for most of the process. I had a 5kg bucket of 2017 summer blossom honey from Ontario that I dumped in the crock pot. The initial flavours I got from the top part of my honey had pretty strong notes of ammonia, but as I got past the top layer, there were more dusty, highway floral with some hay, horsey notes.

Hour 1: Most of my honey had melted into liquid. The horsey notes were now muted, and just a more generic honey sweetness remained.

Hour 1: Does not seem like much is going on yet.

Hour 2: Deeper honey flavours. Smells more marshmallowy. Some plastics?Though I’m not sure where that would be coming from.

Hour 3: Caramel notes start to come through. Slight acridity. Floral notes are still present.

Hour 3.5: The honey volume increases and is really foaming and starting to brown. I turn the heat down from II to I. [Editor’s note: The foam is super delicious and blister inducing if you don’t wait for it to cool to eat.]

Hour 3.5: I couldn’t stop scooping the foam off the top and eating it. Also the point of time I got a blister from absent-mindingly swiping foam off a hot, hot metal spoon. A delicious mis-swipe.

Hour 4: Floral notes still present. Light toffee and caramel notes. Acridity has increased to medium low. There is a slight hay/ horsey that’s come back.

Hour 4: Look at that rolling boiling caramelly honey goodness!

Hour 5: I turned the heat off at this point of time as it’s hit the level of caramel and acridity that I’m happy with.

Hour 5: Mmmmmmmm
My notes and the typical honey colour chart people like doing for bochets. Also makes for a great refresher of how your honey transitioned after.

It’s important to add some water to your caramalized honey before it cools into a puck at the bottom of your pot, and careful when you do that so you don’t get any hot honey splash back.

Just because the sugar content of each honey is different, there isn’t really a set recipe for meads. Once everything’s cooled down a bit more, add water until you hit the starting gravity that you want (I usually try to go for 1.100, and I ended up with 3.5 gallons) and then pitch your yeast (I used EC1118). I just have DAP as a yeast nutrient, so I’ll be using that for my staggered nutrient addition. And that’s it. Let us know if you’ve made a bochet before and how you made it!

Kathy Yan Li is a director of the Canadian Homebrewers Association, and lives in Shilo, MB with her husband and dog Barkley. She is always looking for Canadian homebrewing and brewing content, so feel free to get in touch with her with ideas and suggestions.

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