The Milkweed Diaries

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Making Herbal Meads

Fresh-picked feverfew, skullcap, and lemon balm for Migrane Medicine Mead.

I have been wanting to try fermenting herbal meads for a while now, and have been peppering my experienced mead-making friends with questions about making mead with herbs. This week I gave it a whirl.

A mead made with herbs is technically called by the very medieval-sounding name "metheglin" which derives from the two ancient Welch words--the word for medicine or healing (meddyg) and the word for mead or spirits (llyn). Metheglins can contain medicinal herbs, culinary herbs, and/or spices.

A lot of the metheglin recipes you will find online are for madrigal dinner or ren-fair types of spiced meads heavy on the cinnamon and spice. Those recipes don't generally appeal to me in terms of taste and also because they aren't made with herbs that grow easily here in the southern US. And although some of their components may be medicinal, the "Christmas spice" metheglins do not seem to be intended primarily for health and healing.

I love the idea of a tonic or healing cup of wine, and I relish the process of making medicine with simple ingredients picked fresh from the garden. So it was high time for me to make some medicinal mead.

I made two 1-gallon batches of herbal mead to start out with. With advice from some more experienced metheglin-making friends and herbs from our garden, it was a simple, quick, and easy process -- only a bit more complicated than brewing a cup of herbal tea.

My first batch was made with mostly lavender (stems, leaves, and flowers) and a small amount of rosemary (leaves and stems).

The second batch was an attempt at a migrane tonic mead for Christopher. I combined feverfew (leaves and flowers), two varieties of skullcap (leaves, flowers, and stems), and lemon balm (leaves and stems) for the Migrane Medicine Mead.

Here's a recipe for herbal mead as I made it:

1 gallon of herbal mead (metheglin)

  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 cups honey dissolved
  • Fresh herbs (amount will vary based on herbs used and desired strength)
  • A pinch of yeast (I used champagne yeast)
  • Gallon jug
  • Rubber stopper & airlock
  1. Make a tea from the herbs and 2 quarts of the water. Allow to steep, cool to room temperature and strain out the herbs.
  2. Dissolve the honey in the other quart of water, heating until warm and whisking until the honey is completely dissolved. Add yeast and allow to activate for a few minutes.
  3. Pour the tea and warm honey/yeast water into a 1-gallon jug (we use old apple cider bottles scavenged from the natural foods supermarket's dumpster).
  4. Cork with a rubber stopper topped with an airlock. Allow to ferment for a few weeks until bubbling stops.
  5. Rack after a few weeks. At this point you can either allow a second fermentation of a few more weeks in an airlocked jug and then bottle, or just bottle and age after the primary fermentation. We like to keep our mead-making moving, so we usually bottle after the first, most active fermentation period and allow the last bit of fermentation, aging and mellowing to happen in the bottle.
I'll post about how the meads turn out...they're bubbling away already!

Mead on Foodista:
Mead on Foodista


Anonymous said...
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Divakarma said...

How did this turn out? I've made tinctures, this is my first mead attempt...