My Home Crafting Mysteries all feature a different colonial skill, and as I’ve gone on ad nauseum, in Wined and Died mead making is the background against which Sophie Mae pursues a murderer.
Mead is honey wine, the simplest of which is merely fermented honey and water. Like wine, it can be very dry or very sweet, sparkling like champagne or still like merlot. The kind of honey used – for example varietal honeys produced from specific flowers – makes a difference. Sometimes a deeper note is introduced by adding oak or other wooden cubes during the brewing process.
In fact, you can flavor the basic concoction with pretty much anything, but certain additives have spawned subsets of mead. So here’s a little primer to refer to next time you’re in the market for an age-old and yet not overly common drink.
Pyments are grape wines, only made with honey instead of sugar. On occasion a traditional grape wine and mead are mixed and it’s still called a pyment.
Cysers are meads made with apples. Often the water is replaced with apple juice. Some may even resemble Calvados (apple brandy). The picture above is of bottles of cyser.
Melomels are meads flavored with fruits other than apples or grapes.
Braggot or bracket is flavored with malt, and tastes more like a honey beer than wine. A braggot can also be a traditionally brewed ale mixed with mead.
Methaglins are flavored with herbs and spices. These were originally medicinal. Wine is one of the best ways to access herbal constituents because some dissolve in water and some in alcohol. Also, the sweetness of the mead helped to mask some of the nastier herbal flavors in certain healing remedies. Now methaglins feature herbal and spice blends to augment the flavor of the mead, rather than the other way around.
Now for some really rare (and somewhat strange) varieties:
Rhodomel is flavored with distilled rose petals.
Capsicumel is flavored specifically with black pepper.
Morat is mulberry mead.
Oxymel is honey wine vinegar.
Aren’t you glad you know all that now? If, by chance, you’re more interested (or also interested!) in the freakishly wonderful benefits of raw honey, on Friday I’ll be guest posting at Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers about how good it is for you – inside and out!
Friday is also the last day to enter to win the Free Author Website + two years of Free Hosting from Bizango Website for Writers. I’ll announce the lucky winner here on Saturday, July 30th!
And speaking of July 30th – if you happen to live in or near Fort Collins, Colorado, I’m having a bit of a launch party at Old Firehouse Books on Walnut Street from 2:00-5:00. I’ll be reading a bit, chatting about things like mead and honey, and yes – there will be mead to sample for as long as it lasts!