Strong Mead 
Redaction by THL Dagonell Collingwood

From _The Closet Opened_ by Sir Kenelme Digbie (p. 32)

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.

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.