King Charles II’s Mead

Reproduced from The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt. Opened
by Kenelm Digby, 1669

Master Webbe, who maketh the Kings Meathe, ordereth it thus.

Take as much of Hyde-park water as will make a Hogshead of Meathe: Boil in it about two Ounces of the best Hopp’s for about half an hour. By that time, the water will have drawn out the strength of the Hopp’s. Then skim them clean off, and all the froth, or whatever riseth of the water. Then dissolve in it warm, about one part of Honey to six of water: Lave and beat it, till all the Honey be perfectly dissolved; Then boil it, beginning gently, till all the scum be risen, and scummed away. It must boil in all about two hours. Half an hour, before you end your boiling, put into it some Rosemary-tops, Thyme, Sweet-marjorame, one Sprig of Minth, in all about half a handful, and as much Sweet-bryar-leaves as all these; in all, about a handful of herbs, and two Ounces of sliced Ginger, and one Ounce of bruised Cinamon.

He did use to put in a few Cloves and Mace; But the King did not care for them.

Let all these boil about half an hour, then scum them clean away; and presently let the Liquor run through a strainer-cloth into a Kiver of wood, to cool and settle. When you see it is very clear and settled, lade out the Liquor into another Kiver, carefully, not to raise the settlings from the bottom. As soon as you see any dregs begin to rise, stay your hand, and let it remain unstirred, till all be settled down. Then lade out the Liquor again, as before; and if need be, change it again into another Kiver: all which is done to the end no dregs may go along with the Liquor in tunning it into the vessel.

When it is cold and perfect clear, tun it into a Cask, that hath been used for Sack, and stop it up close, having an eye to give it a little vent, if it should work. If it cast out any foul Liquor in working, fill it up always presently with some of the same liquor, that you have kept in bottles for that end. When it hath wrought, and is well settled (which may be in about two months or ten weeks) draw it into Glass-bottles, as long as it comes clear; and it will be ready to drink in a Month or two: but will keep much longer, if you have occasion: and no dregs will be in the bottom of the bottle.

He since told me, that to this Proportion of Honey and water, to make a Hogshead of Meathe, you should boil half a pound of Hopps in the water, and two good handfuls of Herbs; and six Ounces of Spice of all sorts: All which will be mellowed and rotted away quite, (as well as the lushiousness of the Honey) in the space of a year or two. For this is to be kept so long before it be drunk.

If you would have it sooner ready to drink, you may work it with a little yeast, when it is almost cold in the Kiver: and Tun it up as soon as it begins to work, doing afterwards as is said before; but leaving a little vent to purge by, till it have done working. Or in stead of yeast, you may take the yolks of four New-laid-eggs, and almost half a pint of fine Wheat-flower, and some of the Liquor you have made: beat them well together, then put them to the Liquor in the Cask, and stop it up close,till you see it needful, to give it a little vent.

Note, that yeast of good Beer, is better then that of Ale.

The first of Septemb. 1663. Mr. Webb came to my House to make some for Me. He took fourty three Gallons of water, and fourty two pounds of Norfolk honey. As soon as the water boiled, He put into it a slight handful of Hops; which after it had boiled a little above a quarter of an hour, he skimed off; then put in the honey to the boyling water, and presently a white scum rose, which he skimed off still as it rose; which skiming was ended in little above a quarter of an hour more. Then he put in his herbs and spices, which were these: Rose-mary, Thyme, Winter-savory, Sweet-marjoram, Sweet-bryar-leaves, seven or eight little Parsley-roots: There was most of the Savoury, and least of the Eglantine, three Ounces of Ginger, one Ounce and a half of Cinnamon, five Nutmegs (half an Ounce of Cloves he would have added, but did not,) And these boiled an hour and a quarter longer; in all from the first beginning to boil, somewhat less then two hours: Then he presently laded it out of the Copper into Coolers, letting it run through a Hair-sieve: And set the Coolers shelving (tilted up) that the Liquor might afterwards run the more quietly out of them. After the Liquor had stood so about two hours, he poured or laded out of some of the Coolers very gently, that the dregs might not rise, into other Coolers. And about a pint of very thick dregs remained last in the bottom of every Cooler. That which ran out, was very clear: After two hours more settling, (in a shelving situation,) He poured it out again into other Coolers; and then very little dregs (or scarce any in some of the Coolers) did remain. When the Liquor was even almost cold, He took the yolks of three New-laid-eggs, a spoonful of fine white flower, and about half a pint of new fresh barm of good strong Beer (you must have care that your barm be very white and clean, not sullied and foul, as is usual among slovenly Brewers in London). Beat this very well together, with a little of the Liquor in a skiming dish, till you see it well incorporated, and that it beginneth to work. Then put it to a pailful (of about two Gallons and a half) of the Liquor, and mingle it well therewith. Then leave the skiming dish reversed floating in the middle of the Liquor, and so the yest will work up into and under the hollow of the dish, and grow out round about the sides without. He left this well and thick covered all night, from about eleven a clock at night; And the next morning, finding it had wrought very well, He mingled what was in the Pail with the whole proportion of the Liquor, and so Tunned it up into a Sack-cask. I am not satisfied, whether he did not put a spoonful of fine white good Mustard into his Barm, before he brought it hither, (for he took a pretext to look out some pure clean white barm) but he protested, there was nothing mingled with the barm, yet I am in doubt. He confessed to me that in making of Sider, He put’s in half as much Mustard as Barm; but never in Meathe. The fourth of September in the morning, he Bottled up into Quart-bottles the two lesser Rundlets of this Meathe (for he did Tun the whole quantity into one large Rundlet, and two little ones) whereof the one contained thirty Bottles; and the other, twenty two. There remained but little settling or dregs in the Bottom’s of the Barrels, but some there was. The Bottles were set into a cool Cellar, and He said they would be ready to drink in three weeks. The Proportion of Herbs and Spices is this; That there be so much as to drown the luscious sweetness of the Honey; but not so much as to taste of herbs or spice, when you drink the Meathe. But that the sweetnes of the honey may kill their taste: And so the Meathe have a pleasant taste, but not of herbs, nor spice, nor honey. And therefore you put more or less according to the time you will drink it in. For a great deal will be mellowed away in a year,
that would be ungratefully strong in three months. And the honey that will make it keep a year or two, will require a triple proportion of spice and herbs. He commends Parsley roots to be in greatest quantity, boiled whole, if young; but quarterred and pithed, if great and old.

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