MEAD Aphrodisiac Honey Beverage of Royalty
Mead was the fermented alcoholic beverage most enjoyed in the courts of Europe during the Middle Ages. Today it is taking the western world by storm again.
What do Queen Elizabeth and King Solomon have in common? Mead. Different recipes, same honey-based beverage.
From the Greek gods and goddesses to the wild roaming Vikings, from the knights of King Arthur’s court to the golden goblets of King Midas and his entourage, mead was the sweetest nectar one could wish to drink. There is evidence suggesting Chinese pottery was used for mead fermentation around 7,000 BCE, and it was also a popular beverage with ancient Greeks, Mayans, Romans and Egyptians. In medieval times it was the secret component to a successful ‘honeymoon’ and was often included in a bride’s dowry.
The Greeks considered mead to be ambrosia, or the nectar of the gods and they considered bees as messengers of the gods bringing heavenly messages to humanity. Mead was thought to be the drink of immortality and was ascribed other magical powers such as granting those who drank of it the gifts of wit, strength and at times wisdom.
This sweet beverage is made possible thanks to the generosity of the honeybee.
The basic recipe is simple—it just takes some honey, yeast and water. You can ferment these alone or add such flavorings as spices, grains, fruits or hops. Mead can be prepared and ready to drink within 2 weeks in a warm room or up to 8 weeks in a cold room.
BASIC MEAD RECIPE for 1 Gallon
Filtered or distilled water
2 1/2 pounds of local honey
½ package of champagne yeast
Simmer half a gallon of water until it is warm and add the honey. Two and a half pounds of honey is somewhere between dry and sweet mead, so if you want dry mead reduce the quantity to 2 pounds of honey, and for sweet mead increase it to 3 pounds of honey. Stir until the honey is dissolved in the water. Simmer for half an hour and make sure it does not boil. If any scum forms on the surface, skim it off. Remove from the heat and let it cool down to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit, then pour it into a glass gallon jug or bottle. If you are going to add any extra ingredients, now is the time. Once the temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit you can add the champagne yeast. One package makes 5 gallons of mead so use ½ a package. One package works perfectly for 2 separate gallon jugs. Add a lid to the bottle and shake well, then add more water to fill the gallon jug but leave about 3-4 inches free at the top. Replace the lid with an airlock. Put the bottle in a cool place for about 6 weeks, and then enjoy the rich flavor. Remember that the beverage contains about 15% alcohol.
There are many flowers, digestive herbs and exotic spices you can add, but this is the basic recipe to get you started.
Herbal meads were considered medicine in the old English days, and were called metheglin. Honeys take on the flavor of the flowers the bees have pollinated and the nectar they bring home to the hive. So mead can taste quite different depending on the source of they honey you use.
Neither a wine nor a beer, mead is in a class of its own. For a long time, mead was lost in the dusty cobwebbed annals of history, reminiscent of bygone times, but now it is enjoying a popular revival in the western world.
Just another simple and delicious pleasure we can thank our beloved honeybees for making possible.
Do you ever make your own mead, and if so, will you share your recipe with us?