This is based on a recipe in Kenelme Digby’s The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digby Kt. Opened: Whereby is Discovered Several ways for making of Metheglin, Sider, Cherry-Wine, &c. Together with Excellent Directions for Cookery: As also for Preserving, Conserving, Candying, &c. (1669). The basic recipe uses only honey, water and hops, but he also suggests giving the mead a fruity flavour by replacing some of the water with the juice of cherries or raspberries. I have only tested the cherry variant (Digby specifically recommends Morello cherries).
To make about four litres of mead:
|250 g||cherries or raspberries|
|6||hop pellets (see notes)|
Press the cherries or raspberries. Add the pulped fruit and its juice to an amount of water with volume equal to five times that of the honey. Strain the pulp and seeds out of the water.
Mix the honey into the water and juice. Bring the mixture to the boil, then add the hop pellets.
Leave the mixture to simmer, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. When no more foam rises, remove the mixture from the heat.
Leave the wort to cool until it reaches room temperature, then add the yeast.
Put the wort into a fermenter and leave it to ferment until done. Put the mead into bottles and seal them.
Digby says that the mead will be ready to drink in five or six months. I initially drank it after five months and found it somewhat dry, but it improved greatly with age.
Hops. The strength of hops depends on their alpha content and the quantity given above may need to be varied according to the alpha content of your hops, and personal taste. The above quantity of six pellets is based on Hallertau hops with 6.8% alpha content.
Other spices. Digby says that “cardamom-seeds mingled with suspended spices, adde much to the pleasantness of the drink”, but I have not tried this. Digby has the spices being suspended (in a mesh bag) in the wort while it matures, so that you must leave the mead in the fermenter for five or six months before bottling it. Digby specifically suggests lemon peel and elderflowers as spices.
Racking. Digby racks the mead twice during fermentation, that is, he drains the liquid off the fermenter while leaving the sediment behind. He does this once when the working of the yeast is at its height, and again twenty-four hours later. He bottles the mead (actually, seals it in a barrel) immediately after the second racking. My mead had very little sediment in it, however, so racking did not seem to be necessary—simply leave any sediment behind when you pour the fermented mead into bottles.