People have been drinking fermented beverages since the dawn of civilization. At first, the production of alcohol may have been accidental. Over time, it became an art.
Mead is a beverage made from fermented honey. This very drink was the founding father of wine and beer. A purist might just stick to just the simplest recipe of honey, water, and yeast, but some people, like myself, add a few additional ingredients to compliment the main ingredient.
My first introduction to mead was on my birthday. I prepared a medieval feast, each ingredient carefully chosen to be historically accurate or at least as accurate as it could be. A friend of mine brought along mead made by a brewery also known for brewing Tej, an Ethiopian honey wine. It was a welcome accompaniment to the sweet and savory flavors of the various medieval dishes.
I acquired a taste for mead while in Denmark. I was attending a folk school, and two of our favored activities were singing and drinking. A local liquor store carried mead in a ceramic bottle. The label depicted two Vikings, who seemed rather happy enjoying their brew out of horns. My friends and I started having little parties we appropriately dubbed "Viking Giggle Fest."
After school ended, I returned home. I yearned to make mead. I had been brewing for years, but most of these experiments ended in failure. This time around I was determined to make something drinkable. My first batch was rather scaled down. I boiled honey in water, let it cool to room temperature, added yeast, and set it aside to ferment for two weeks. I wanted to try it, so after the two weeks were up, I decided to try it. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't wonderful either. It showed signs of carbonation, its bubbles gently tickled my palate. The taste was a little watered down, but I was working off of a theory and not off of a recipe.
The next time I brewed I was prepared. I went out and got a basic brewing kit. I used more honey this time and also decided to use a few additives and clarifying agents such as gelatin, hops, lavender, and rose hip. I used champagne yeast instead of bread yeast for better flavor. This brew fermented for two weeks, I then aged it for two more, bottled it, and left it to age on a rack for about two more months. The end result was something wonderful, and I gave my grandfather a taste. He had been an avid amateur vintner, so he knew a thing or two about how wine should taste. A tear came to his eye, and I could tell he was proud that I had been successful.
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Paul Rinehart is the founder of Online Cooking.