A who of what? Not in 2015, right? Wrong! Mead - that honey wine we usually associate with medieval bacchanalian revelry is making a surprising comeback as the brew of choice for millions of wassailers around the world.
Flagons of the golden beverage - that is, large leather, metal, or ceramic containers - have been swilled, chugged, and sipped as far back as 7,000 BCE, as evidenced by ancient Chinese pottery depicting the production of this golden ambrosia. From Asia, this nectar of the gods flowed to Greece, India, and the African continent. It reached the height of its popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Minimal Mead Needs
To make mead, all you need is clean water, a brew pot, some brewers yeast, a long-handle spoon, and some fermenting jugs. Traditionally it can take from two to three years to fully mature. And some purists eschew boiling the honey, preferring to use the raw product during the fermentation process.
Mead is not exclusively a man-made product. This grandfather of all alcoholic drinks was first produced by Mother Nature without any help or interference from man, thank you. All She needed was an obliging beehive, some rain water, yeast that occurs naturally in the air, and the honey fermented into wine all by itself. [Okay, so am I the only one who didnt know that theres yeast in the air?]
The flavor of the mead depends on the honey - when it is harvested, how old it is, and what kind it is. Fresh Florida orange blossom honey will taste different from honey made from apple blossoms in Washington State or honey made from alfalfa in Idaho.
Maximum Mead Merriment
Pure mead is made without spices or fruit. For flavorful variations - still or sparkling, dry or sweet - you need only fiddle with the ingredients and the fermentation process. Metheglin mead may include ginger, tea, orange peel, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, or vanilla; and it was widely used as folk medicine in the United Kingdom.
Cyser mixes in apple juice. For Bochet you caramelize the honey first, which produces a toffee or caramel flavor. Capsicumel is made with chili peppers. Black mead is made with black currants.
In antiquity, mead was used to treat kidney disease, gout, rheumatism, and constipation. Today, mead lovers find that the antioxidant properties naturally occurring in honey are no less potent after fermentation. And mead is gluten free, so celiac disease sufferers can imbibe without worry.
Mead News Muse
Honeymoons started with a generous serving of mead, in fact thats how the word honeymoon came to be. You see, mead was considered both an aphrodisiac and a fertility drug. So the dutiful father-of-the-bride provided the newlyweds with a whole months supply of this elixir of love. That was enough to last a full cycle of the moon, during which it was hoped that the happy couple would be fruitful and multiply.
Busy As Bees
Today European monasteries continue to produce mead. And now there are 165 meaderies in America. Theres even an American Mead Makers Association [which frowns on calling it wine, by the way.] So hurry to your local meadery and wassail with your honey to your hearts content.