Here is another warming drink. This one takes time though…lots and lots of time! This not a one hour simmer with spices and serve as the Hipocris was. This is a brew in the warming days of spring and serve next to an autumn fire. So we need to get some brewing started!
Honey Wine with Raisins
Take fifty pounds of raisins and thirty (pounds) of clarified bees’ honey. Put the honey in a pot with a quantity of water equal to half the honey. Boil the honey and water over a strong fire, and when it is cooked add the raisons with twenty pounds of water and boil again. Strain out the grape seeds and add a weight of five dirham of saffron, five dirham of spikenard, and three dirham of mace, along with the weight of 1 daniq of musk. Keep in bottles in the shade and use after forty days. It is a marvel. (Zaouali, pp. 140)
1 package yeast
¾ C sugar
10 lbs of honey
10 lbs of water (divided in half)
3 grams each of Chinese cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron
4 lbs raisons
Redaction: One week prior to starting, I mixed the sugar and yeast together in a jar (with about 3 C water) so that when the time came to add yeast there would be lots and lots!
Now the period method did not call for yeast. Yeast in period was either salvaged from a previous batch of brewing or allowed to form naturally in or on any items by leaving them out a bit to gather the wild yeast. My kitchen is geared, due to all the various cooking I do, to bread yeast. Modern bread yeast at that. Modern bread yeast does horrible nasty evil things to brewing. So, to help circumvent any modern bread yeast from taking root into my mead, I make a HUGE batch of wine yeast (lost of sugar and time to get the little yeasty beasties growing) then add them to my bottle of brewing.
Roughly 5 to 7 days later I started to brew mead.
I took 10 lbs of honey and poured the liquid gold into a large pot.
Now the honey I bought was not regional to anywhere in the Middle East nor in Ansteorra. I bought, for cost sake, Costco slut honey. A decent clarified honey at a good price. Regional honey is much better in my opinion but 2x the price for half the amount is not. I chose to be cost efficient and go for decent mead instead of slightly darker sweeter mead. If you can get regional flavored honey…do so, but don’t break the bank for brewing!
The next step was to add 5 lbs of water. I used one of the containers of honey and refilled it up with water to equal ½ of the water needed in the first portion.
I allowed the honey and water mixture to boil just slightly.
Bubbles were just forming. Then I added the 4 lbs of raisins.
Now the period method said 50 lbs of raisins (roughly) for the original recipe. This recipe has been cut by half. Raisins to be used in that quantity had to be as easy to come by as air. Do not get me wrong the flavor is great; however I don’t think so much was or is needed. I cute the quantity from what should be 25 lbs of raisins to 4 lbs. My cooking pot would not have handled so much, though I wonder after reading the translation several times if the raisins were not cooked until dissolved in which case the 4 lbs of raisins I used should have been ground up then added. But this is hindsight. Next time I’ll try that step of making raisin paste instead of just using whole raisins.
After the raisins were added, I added the spices.
Now again I had to fudge a little on the spicing. I did not have any mace so I went with nutmeg. Mace is the outer covering on a nutmeg with a slightly subtler less heavy taste. So instead of 4.25 grams times 3 = 12.75 grams or (3 dirhams) of mace I used 3 grams of nutmeg instead of 12.75 grams or 3 dirhams. I want a flavoring of nutmeg not an overwhelming taste. I used the poor man’s saffron in 3 grams as well and 3 grams of Chinese cinnamon. For a truly heavenly period taste, get the Chinese cinnamon if at all possible. The regular every day grocery store cinnamon has no flavor compared to the really good Chinese cinnamon!
I allowed everything to come to a bit of a simmer with lots of bubbles and a slight roil before turning off the heat.
Everything sat and melded for a few hours till cooler.
I then put a strainer over a cleaned bucket to pull out the raisins (and not just grape seeds) which is why I think the original way this was made was to cook the raisins till they dissolved.
Pour the boiled raisin/honey mixture over the strainer and into the bucket to strain out all the raisins. (Do NOT throw the raisins away! They are excellent in other dishes with a slightly honey/spiced flavor)
Once the raisins had been strained,
I poured the mead into a clean glass carboy and added the remaining 10 lbs of water. I added the water at this juncture instead of in the pot as my pot was not big enough to handle another 10 lbs of water. This cooled the still fairly hot mead enough that the yeast could be added.
The finishing touch was a vapor lock as I know the yeast will do its thing and I prefer a non sticky floor due to a blown glass jar, which was a real possibility in period.
Now, this carboy has not been uncorked as of yet. It needs another couple of months before I can start decanting the wine. I’m already picking out the perfect meal to go with this!