Ottos Another Recipe (metheglin) I By Digby

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Full Recipe Name
Another Recipe (metheglin)
Recipe Source
The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened, By Kenelm Digby
Brewer
Otto Gottlieb
Panel Information
Panel Location: Pennsic
Panel Date: August 2017
Score: 87
Beverage Information
Period: Renaissance
Division: Division 2: Mead, Hydomel, Melomel, Metheglins
Origin: English

Original Recipe

ANOTHER RECIPE: Take to every Gallon of Fountain-water a good quart of honey. Set the water on the fire, till it be pretty warm; then take it off, and put it in your honey, and stir it till it be dissolved. Then put into every three Gallons, two handfuls of Thyme: two good handfuls of Strawberry-leaves, one handful of Organ; one handful of Fennel-roots, the heart being taken out, and one handful of Parsley-roots the heart taken out: But as for the herbs, it must be according to the constitution of them, for whom the Mead is intended. Then set the Herbs in it on the fire, to boil for half an hour, still skimming it, as the scum riseth; it must boil but half an hour; then take it off the fire, and presently strain it from the herbs, and let it stand till it be fully cold; then pour it softly off the bottom, and put it in a vessel fit for it, and put a small quantity of barm in it, and mingle it with it, and when it hath wrought up, which will be in three or four days, skim off that barm, and set on fresh: but the second barm must not be mingled with the Meath, but onely poured on the top of it. Take an Ounce of Nutmeg sliced: one Ounce of Ginger sliced: one Ounce of Cinnamon cut in pieces, and boil them a pretty while in a quart of White-wine or Sack: when this is very cold, strain it, and put the spices in a Canvas-bag to hang in your Meath, and pour in the Wine it was boiled in. This Meath will be drinkable, when it is a fortnight or three weeks old.

Redaction

Dissolve one quart of honey for each gallon of warm water. For a three gallon batch, add two handfuls of thyme, two handfuls of strawberry leaves, one handful of “organ”, one handful of fennel roots (with the heart taken out), and one handful of parsley roots (also with the hearts taken out); amounts adjusted to taste. Bring this to a boil for 30 minutes, removing the foam (or wax and bee parts) as it rises. Strain the herbs and let stand until cool. Pour, leaving sediment, into a vessel the same size as the volume and stir-in a small amount of barm (ale yeast). Once it begins to ferment in 3 to 4 days, skim off the (floating) barm and add new barm on top of the metheglin, not mixed in. Add an ounce of sliced nutmeg, ounce of sliced ginger, and an ounce of cinnamon cut into pieces to a quart of white wine or sack and boil for a “pretty while”. Let stand until cool then strain. Put the spices into a canvas bag to hang in the metheglin and pour the boiled wine into the metheglin. The metheglin will be ready to drink in two to three weeks.

Ingredient

  • honey from Aroostook Valley Honey Farm (Maine)
  • water from Poland Springs
  • strawberry leaves
  • spearmint leaves
  • fennel
  • parsley root
  • ale barm from Danstar Nottingham ale yeast
  • nutmeg
  • ginger
  • cinnamon
  • Savory & James Cream Sherry (sack)

Process and Notes

The recipe calls for a quart (roughly 2.5-3 lbs.) of honey per gal. A modern SCA sweet mead typically calls for the same ratio of honey to water. Scaling this to 2 gal., I used two quarts or a half gallon (5 lbs.) of honey. Dissolve the honey in 2 gal. of water in a pot over the stove. Once dissolved, I added a third less of a hand full (about half a cup) of strawberry leaves, spearmint leaves(1), fennel bulb (not root)(2), and parsley root. I bought it to a boil for 30 minutes, removing foam as needed. After the boil, I strained the liquid into a carboy, covered, and allowed to cool before adding ale barm from a previous batch of beer. After three days, I racked it to “set on fresh” and added more ale yeast. I used about 0.7 ounces each of sliced nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon in 750 ml of sack, for the 2 gal. batch size (1 qt. = 946.4 ml).

  • (1) Organ is thought to be pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) (Thomas). Digby uses both terms, but not in the same recipe. Pennyroyal is described as being very fragrant, similar to spearmint, but is toxic (Wikipedia, Mentha pulegium). It is a known abortative and may cause death. I used spearmint instead.
  • (2) The orginial recipe calls for fennel root, which is most likely the variety of fennel that has a large tap root and little to no bulb. It is not common and difficult to find. A botanist friend tells me it tastes very similar to the bulb.
  • It is too early in this year’s growing season in Maine to pick fresh strawberry and spearmint leaves or dig parsley root, so I ordered dried versions from Starwest Botanicals in California. They are certified organic.
  • Digby most frequently uses the term “sack” as an ingredient or “sack cask” as a container; only once does he say “Canary Sack”, as in sack from the Canary Islands, and “Sherry-sack” a couple of times. In this recipe, Digby says to use white wine or sack. Though sack may mean other things, it’s not clear what (Wikipedia, Sack (wine)). However, white wine is made from green grapes as well as sherry. Sherry is fortified with grape spirits, aged, and blended (Manson, 2014).
  • From the way the original recipe is written, it suggests adding the spiced sack to the metheglin. I hung the spices in a linen sack (I sewed) from a string in the primary fermenter.
  • Brewed April 2
  • Bottled April 21, 2017
  • Approx. ABV 12%

References

Digby, Kenelm, 1669. The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened by Kenelm Digby, Project Gutenberg, accessed online at: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16441/16441-h/16441-h.htm

Manson, Anne, 2014. Sherry: The Beginner’s Guide to One of Spain’s Greatest Wines. Accessed online at: http://www.anniebspain.com/educate-me-on-sherry-with-pleasure-2/

Sibly, Belinda (Mistress Roheisa le Sarjent) 2014. The Egg Test for Period Brewers and Mead Makers. Accessed online at: http://brewers.lochac.sca.org/files/2014/02/The-Egg-test-for-Period-Brewers2.pdf

Thomas, Spencer W., et al. (no date). Glossary for "Digby" Recipes. Accessed online at: http://realbeer.com/spencer/Digby-recipes/glossary.html#herbs

Wikipedia contributors. Mentha pulegium. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. February 12, 2017, 19:49 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Mentha_pulegium&oldid=765128803. Accessed April 6, 2017.

Wikipedia contributors. Sack (wine). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. September 25, 2016, 18:47 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sack_(wine)&oldid=741152831. Accessed April 6, 2017.