WHAT IS MEAD?
The essential ingredient in making mead, fermented honey, is combined with fruit, yeast and spices. Even though it is sometimes called honey wine, it is an altogether different beverage than wine or beer.
“Mead is a unique beverage because of its origins in honey. Every other beverage is based on a product that is essentially limitless. If you need more barley, you just plant another field. If you need more honey, you can’t go plant a field of bees.”
~ The Compleate Meadmaker, Ken Schramm
In Egypt, where honey was highly sought and valued, a god of fertility, Min, was considered the master of the wild bees. Manuscript illustrations point to royally commissioned honey hunting parties guarded by archers. Honey was domesticated in the form of beekeeping to increase access to the supply.
The ancient Egyptians were known to be avid practitioners of fermentation and enthusiastic mead drinkers Ken Schramm, owner of a Michigan meadery, speculates the origin of mead fermentation as a happenstance discovery in Egypt based on the following premises:
- Yeast cells are found everywhere in the wild, floating around in the air and in/on things and,
- Honey hunters went on expeditions to retrieve honey and required vessels for storage.
Schramm invites followers to imagine an ancient Egyptian honey hunter’s animal-hide canteen when the hunter encounters a beehive and fills the hide with honey to take back home. After a few days the skin swells when the honey has mixed with the leftover water. . . a yeast culture present in the animal skin is introduced to the sugar the honey provides. Fermentation occurs and mead is introduced to the Egyptian population. It would have been relatively simple to recreate the process and through time, perfect the art of fermentation of not only honey but other sugars as well.
“ . . . many indigenous peoples, in almost every part of the world, have long traditions of fermenting alcoholic beverages out of whatever carbohydrate sources they have . . . The context for making and consuming fermented alcoholic drinks in traditional cultures was, as a general rule, communal and ritualistic. Some cultures created noisy rituals, with the idea that “excited, sometimes even angry, strong energy helped the yeast to work more effectively.” Other cultures, with the notion that the ferment needed peace and quiet and could be startled or scared by sounds and movement, approached fermentation processes with quiet reverence.”
~ Wild Fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz
Dirty Dozen Recipe
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