Despite my earlier concerns, the Digby mead is progressing just fine.
Originally, I feared that the small amount of honey – one quart – was not enough to turn this into a bona-fide mead. I was also concerned that the yeast and nutrients – not specified in the original recipe – might prove problematic. Where the recipe relied on active liquid yeast, I used dried yeast that I reactivated; where the original made no mention of feeding the mead, I found it necessary. Where the original recipe required that the solution be transferred to the carboy after twelve hours, I waited four days for the yeast to take hold. So there were a few alterations that may affect the outcome of the product. That said, it surprised me that the must began to show signs of proper development. Oxidation was proceeding slowly, but it was proceeding, and that’s what’s important.
I transferred the must solution to the carboy on Thursday, some four days ago. This gave me my first opportunity to actually sample the must to get some indication as to how it may turn out. It was also my first opportunity to sample what, for all intent and purposes, is a truly accurate 17th century beverage. Needless to say, I was a bit excited.
Wow! I am not a drinker and yet I’m blown away by this concoction! The must solution has a dark blonde appearance; it looks like a cloudy apple cider. Part of this is due to the wildflower honey, but it may also be due to the nutmeg and mace. The taste is interesting: I could still taste and smell a hint of honey – usually, both are gone by this point – and to some degree, that affirms my decision to use as little as I did; any more and it’d be overpowering. Both the nutmeg and mace are noticeable, and all I could think of while sampling was pumpkin pie. There was, oddly, a hint of banana, which I attribute to the cloves, as there are no bananas in the recipe.
The Little Woman sampled a bit of the must as well, and seemed quite pleased – she gave it her blessing. Since the Digby recipe gives no indication how long the must should sit, I’ve decided to play it by ear: I intend to leave the carboy in the cool basement and sample it every two or three weeks. If tradition holds out, it should take roughly six to eight months before I can actually serve it. By that time, it will shed some of its cloudy nature in favor of a more transparent, wine-like drink. I have just two concerns, though: I hope that it doesn’t become too dry (it shouldn’t with such a minimal amount of honey), and I hope that the overall taste doesn’t deviate too far from what it is now. But all I can do is wait and see.
All said, this project is turning out better than I’d imagined!