Strong Mead Redaction by THL Dagonell Collingwood ORIGINAL From _The Closet Opened_ by Sir Kenelme Digbie (p. 32) STRONG MEAD Take one Measure of honey, and dissolve it in four of water, beating it long and up and down with clean Wooden ladels. The next day boil it gently, scumming it all the while till no more scum riseth; and if you will clarify the Liquor with a few beaten whites of Eggs, it will be the clearer. The rule of it's being boiled enough is, when it yieldeth no more scum, and beareth an Egge, so the that breadth of a groat is out of the water. Then pour it out of the Kettle into wooden vessels, and let it remain there till it be almost cold. Then Tun it into a vessel, where Sack hath been. REDACTION 1 gallon honey 4 gallons water 1 pkg white wine yeast This is the recipe I use to make the mead samples for Viking Village. Modern folk are more hygiene-conscious, so substitutions were made in technique, to keep the final product bateria-free. I do not own a "wooden vessel", i.e. "wine-cask", so I bought a 5-gallon glass carboy at a flea market. A carboy is the glass bottle portion of an office water cooler. It's the thing the Culligan Man replaces :) Make sure your carboy is glass, the plastic ones will change the taste of the mead. In a large stainless steel pot, bring a gallon of water to a gentle boil. Slowly add one quart of honey while gently stirring. I'm fortunate enough to live down the road from a bee-keeper. My honey never saw the inside of a grocery store. My water is filtered from a spring on my property, no chemical additives. Because of this, I have relatively little scum or foam to remove. Depending on the purity of your ingredients, you may have to skim foam off the surface. When the honey is mixed in, you should have a slightly denser pot of water with a slight golden color to it. Take it off the heat. I skipped the part about adding eggwhites because this was going to be handed out to the general public, so the fewer the ingredients, the less likely an allergic reaction. I did, however, float a raw egg in it. Digby is using the egg as a brewer's hydrometer, a device that measures the specific gravity of a liquid, or how dense it is. "when it ... beareth an Egge, so the that breadth of a groat is out of the water." A groat is a small English coin, worth about four pence, which is slightly larger than a nickel, but slightly smaller than a quarter. I've tried it, it works. Better brewers than I have calculated that this means the mead has a specific gravity of about 1.08, or 8% thicker than water. When the pot of water has somewhat cooled. Pour it into the carboy. I line my funnel with cheesecloth to filter out the last of the impurities as I pour. Repeat this process three more times. Seal the carboy and let it cool down to less than blood temperature, warm but not hot. While the liquid is warm, add one package of white wine yeast. I've also used beer yeast in the past, and once used bread yeast in a pinch. They all work. In medieval times, they left the brew exposed to the open air to collect airborne yeast. This occasionally resulted in a 'skunk brew' which had to be tossed. I seal the carboy after adding the yeast. As the yeast ferments, it will convert the sugar into alcohol and eventually stop when the alcohol kills the yeast. This will take place when the brew is about 8-10% alcohol, the level of a strong beer. The yeast will also produce carbon dioxide. I can tell multiple stories of exploding mead carboys. You will need to cap the carboy with a fermentation lock. Mine is storebought and is a clear plastic tube with two 180* curves in it, kind of like what your sink drain looks like. When the lock is half-filled with water, gases can bubble up thru the water to get out, but no air can get past the water to go down into the mead. If you're just starting out, cover the top of the carboy with a large balloon. As the gases inflate, the balloon will expand. If nothing else, remember to 'burp' the brew daily by opening the bottle and letting the gas build-up escape. The mead will ferment for about three months, although you can start drinking it after one month. The longer it ferments, the drier and less-sweet it becomes. After three months, it can be bottled and given away to friends. I like to use the bottles from German Grolsh beer. They come with a re-corkable ceramic cap. U.S. laws allows a home-brewer to brew, but not distill, up to 100 gallons of alcohol a year for personal use. 'Personal use' means you can give it away, but not sell it. After you've tried your hand at making simple mead, you may want to try a few variations. A few definitions: Mead, honey wine without spices or fruits; Metheglin, mead made with spices; Melomel, mead made with fruit; Pyment, mead made with grapes; Cyser, mead made with apples; Hippocras, mead made with both fruit and spices. You will also discover that the type of honey you start with affects the flavor. Clover honey yields a different taste from wildflower honey. I won't use buckwheat honey, it has a strong flavor resembling burnt molasses.