Surprise Yourself With The Unique Taste Of Mead
When people think of an alcoholic beverage to go with a meal or just to relax with, they might tend to think of wine or beer, but to exclude mead from your table would mean that you would miss out on a delightful and unique drink. Unlike most wines, beers, and spirits, which are generally made from fruit or grain, mead’s basic component is honey. Mead is one of the oldest of the spirituous beverages discovered by mankind and has nearly as long a history as beer. Once widespread, mead did lose popularity as wine and beer use spread over Europe, but is now making a well-deserved comeback. The taste of the mead depends in part upon the flowers from which the honey was taken, with some meads having a delicate, light flavor and other a richer, more robust taste. As with most drinks with an alcohol content, mead makes use of yeast to convert the sugars into alcohol – even the choice of yeast can have a critical impact on the flavor of a particular mead.
If you want to drink the same kind of mead that the Vikings drank while celebrating a victory, you will want to stick to mead made in the traditional way. This is mead that is made from honey, water, and yeast – nothing more is added. There is actually quite a variation in how even traditional meads taste as the flowers visited by the bees will impart flavor to the honey. If you go to a store that carries several kinds of honey, you will notice that there are light and dark honeys. Were you to taste these honeys, you would find that they all have a distinctive taste and consistency, and it is this variation in the flavors of honey that produces a range of traditional meads.
While traditional mead is popular with some, many people enjoy the added subtlety and flavor of melomel mead. Melomel mead is made with the addition of various fruits to the basic mead recipe, and can make experimentation with the different flavors a way to explore mead. Among the most popular melomels are those made with apricots, blackberries, pears, peaches, and blueberries, although nearly any fruit can be used. Some additions are so common that they have even been given their own designation:
• Cyser is mead that has been made with apples. Cyser has a long tradition in Northern Europe, and was enjoyed in the British Isles before the Norman Conquest of 1066. It is thought that King Harold, the king at the time of the invasion, enjoyed this beverage himself.
• Pyment is mead with the addition of grapes. The proportions of honey and grapes can be altered to make the beverage either more mead-like or more wine-like. When the grapes predominate, it is usually called honeyed wine. All pressure cooker recipes are workable here. If there is more honey than grapes used, the drink is called grape mead. Many people consider that pyment combines the best qualities of both mead and wine.
Metheglin meads have been used almost as long as mead itself, and to begin with were used medicinally. Before the advent of more modern medical techniques, people believed that spices and herbs could help to prevent or cure illness (correct to some extent, too). As early meads may have been a bit less smooth and palatable than modern ones, spices undoubtedly helped to improve the flavor. One of the favorite spices to add to mead is vanilla. In this case, it will be inner part of the vanilla bean that is introduced into the mead, and vanilla has been found to make mead more gentle and soothing.
Another popular metheglin mead is one that is made with citrus and a spice such as ginger or cinnamon. While orange is usually chosen for this, it is also possible to use lime or lemons to produce a delicious mead. Nutmeg is another spice that is often used along with citrus or other fruits to impart a distinctive flavor to metheglin mead.
Although herbs are not used as widely in metheglin mead as in previous centuries, lavender is one herb that has made its way into the world of modern mead.