I’ve been giving Sir Kenelm Digby’s mead recipe some serious consideration. It doesn’t strike me as necessarily hard to make, but it does seem to involve a good amount of time – I’m thinking a good five to six hours outright, and who-knows-how-long beyond that. In other words, I do see a bit of a commitment here, and that means any attempt to produce this will have to occur on a weekend.
To be faithful to the actual recipe, I’d need a “gallon of honey.” That’s roughly 8 to 9 pounds of honey, and the wildflower version I get at from Northern Brewer runs about $11/3 pounds. This means that the whole enterprise will likely cost about $50-$60, which isn’t bad for a 5-6 gallon payoff (6 gallons = c. 64 twelve ounce bottles = c.$1 each). My plan is to pare that down significantly; I’m looking to make only a single gallon (maybe two), because (1) I have no idea how this will turn out and thus don’t want a huge financial commitment, and (2) I don’t have the space for all of those aging carboys. This should reduce my expenses considerably, but I’m still thinking that I’ll hit the $25-$30 mark.
There’s an even bigger issue for me and that’s authenticity. Glass has been around since the ancient world. The Romans used glass, as did the Anglo-Saxons, and other peoples in the early medieval period. Digby’s mead may have aged in a glass vessel, but it seems to me to be unlikely; although available, glass was expensive. Clay pots seem more accurate to me, and I’ve read that the clay pot actually had an impact on the flavor of the beverage. If I’m interested in recreating something that’s accurate to c. 1650 – and I am – then I’m wondering if I should try to “go all the way” and secure a couple of gallon-sized clay carboys. Yeah, I see how that can be overkill, but hey, it sounds interesting to me.
One good place would be Jas. Townsend & Son, as they’re probably the best accessible outlet. I’ve dealt with Townsend before and I’ve yet to be disappointed. Well . . . I was slightly disappointed when I learned that they’d discontinued their line of 17th/18th century trumpet style dinner glasses some time back, but that’s the exception. Fantastic service and great products – I can’t recommend them enough. They even have some really nice 18th cookery based videos on You Tube (or you can order them direct). They have an Ovid Jug that appears period-correct and suitable, but it only holds approximately 3 quarts. The price is another point of concern – that’s a lot for something that may be used only once. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to slightly modernize the production . . .