The proportions of honey and water are based on several recipes in Digbie, notably:
Prominent, and indeed famous, among those liquors closely related to mead is what, for want of a more specific name, one would call raspberry sack-mead. This, as a sweet liquor, was greatly prize in Poland before the late war. One old writer quoted by Edward Spencer(191) tells of its being obtainable in Sweden, Muscovy, and as far as the Caspian Sea. This consists of the juice of raspberries and honey fermented together. It is by no means an easy liquor to make, as there is a strong tendency to vinegrate unless it is made with skill and care.
In this recipe, Digbie mentions the use of lemon peel and juice:
TO MAKE MEATH (Digbie, pp. 92)
Take to six quarts of water, a quart of the best honey, and put it on the fire, and stir it, till the honey is melted: and boil it well as long as any scum riseth: and now and then put in a little cold water, for this will make the scum rise: keep your kettle up as full as you did put it on; and when it is boiled enough, about half an hour before you take it off, then take a quantity of Ginger sliced and well scraped first, and a good quantity of Rosemary, and boil both together. Of the Rosemary and Ginger you may put in more or less, for to please your taste: And when you take it off the fire, strain it into your vessel, either a well seasoned-tub, or a great cream pot, and the next morning when it is cold, pour off softly the top from the settlings into another vessel; and then put some little quantity of the best Ale-barm to it and cover it with a thin cloth over it, if it be in summer, but in the winter it will be longer a ripening, and therefore must be the warmer covered in a close place, and when you go to bottle it, take with a feather all the barm off, and put it into your bottles, and stop up close. In ten days you may drink it. If you think six quarts of water be too much, and would have it stronger, then put in a greater quantity of honey.
And finally, the use of raspberries as something to ferment is also attested to by Digbie:
ANOTHER TO MAKE MEATH (Digbie, pp 65)
To every quart of honey allow six Wine-quarts of water; half an ounce of Nutmegs, and the Peel of a Limon, and the meat of two or three, as you make the quantity. Boil these together, till the scum rise no more; It must stand till it be quite cold, and when you Tun it, you squeese into it the Juyce of some Limons, and this will make it ripen quickly. It will be ready in less than a month.
TO MAKE RASBERY-WINE (Digbie, pp 148)
Take four Gallons of Deal wine, put it into an earthen jugg; put to it four Gallons of Rasberries; let them stand so infusing seven days; then press it out gently ; Then infuse as many more Rasberries seven days longer, and so three times if you please; put to it as much fine Sugar as will make it pleasant; Put it into a Runlet close stopped, let it stand still till it is fine; and then draw it into bottles, and keep it till it be fine.
Lacking "skill and care," and not wishing to allow any random infections to be transmitted to the melomel, I opted to heat my fruit- honey-water mixture to a level sufficient to pasteurize it. Unfortunately this also has the effect of setting the pectin, which results in a very cloudy drink. To overcome this, I added pectic enzyme to break down the pectin and allow the melomel to clear.
ANOTHER MEATH (Digbie, pp 87)
Take twenty Gallons of fair Spring-water. Boil it a quarter of an hour, and then let it stand till the next day. Then beat into it so much honey, as will make it so strong as to bear an Egg the breadth of two pence above the water. The next day boil it up with six small handfuls of Rosemary, a point and a half of Ginger, (being scraped and bruised) and the whites of twenty Eggs together with their shells beaten together, and well mingled with the Liquor. Clarifie it and skim it very clean, still as the scum riseth, leaving the Ginger and Rosemary in it. Let it stand till the next day, then Tun it up, and take some New- ale-yest, the whites of two Eggs, a spoonful of flower, beat all these together, and put it on the top of a barrel, when the barrel is full. Let it work, and when it hath done working, stop it up close for three weeks, or a month. Then you may bottle it, and a few days after, you may drink it.
Rack into secondary after a week or two. Let sit in secondary for about four months. Boil up a small amount of water (i.e. 1/4 cup), let cool a bit, and stir in Pectic Enzyme. Pour into a clean fermenter, then rack melomel into this. Let sit for another month after clearing, then rack and bottle.
Starting specific gravity was 1.088, finishing was less than 0.997.
The small amount of malt extract is in place of yeast nutrient. I have found using this small amount of extract helps start meads quite quickly. (In retrospect, with all the fruit in this, I didnšt need the extract.)
I like this version, though I am disappointed in how little raspberry taste there is. Future batches will use much larger quantities, and fresh fruit if in season.
Tofi Kerthjalfadsson, pwp+ (AT) cs dot cmu dot edu