I have been baking since I was very very young. My mother was fantastic at getting all of us into the kitchen to help with holiday baking or bread baking or other cooking in whatever capacity we could handle (she’s basically a superhero – remind me to tell you about the 12 hour epic road-trips with 3 kids). I even have photographic proof of my baking and mess-making prowess:

Even as a youngin’ I knew that yeast was an integral part of the bread baking process – my mother is also a biologist – and I even knew that yeast needed to be alive to work. Which is sort of strange to think about, now, as an adult. That I knew that, and some children don’t even know you can bake your own bread!

My understanding, however, has never been extremely sophisticated – bunch of ingredients + yeast + oven = delicious bread. In a lot of ways, baking and cooking are still ‘magic’ to me.

When I recently realized that bunch of other ingredients + yeast + bucket = something completely unlike bread – I was pretty much hooked. Yeast being the magical fungus that it is – it also helps make alcoholic beverages!

So now, in our basement, we have one of these:

and some of these:

The bottled is Chardonnay, our first attempt at home wine-making, and is about a month away from drinkability. The fermenter/bucket is the beginnings of mead. If you are unfamiliar with mead (like most people), it is essentially wine made from honey. It is impossible to find in a store (at least in Pennsylvania), and if you get a taste for it, you may need to begin making your own. The kicker is that it takes about a year of aging to be truly drinkable, but once it is, you will have trouble not drinking it all. We got a taste for mead while camping with someone who made his own – he had brought a few bottles, and we all got happily tipsy.

We have about 2 cases of the wine, and should end up with about 2 cases of the mead as well. And really, all we did was dump yeast in a bucket of grape juice or honeyed water…
I told you – yeast is basically magic.