How to make mead like a Viking
The main goal of this article is to show you “How to make mead like a Viking”, the old-fashioned way. Well, the Vikings were not the only people fond of this drink. Mead has always been the ancestor of all alcoholic beverages, dates back in the ancient time.
The ancient Egyptians, ancient Indians and other civilizations from the pre-Hellenic era made and consumed meads. Over the centuries, an excess of mead recipes was devised, brewed and drank by a variety of cultures around the world. The nations of the Ancient Near East, the Greeks, and Romans, Celts, Norse and Germanic peoples as well as the civilizations of ancient India and more consumed some version of honey wine. The simplest meads, consisting of little more than honey, water, and yeasts, were common but many meads were brewed with various herbs and spices.
The brimming horns of fresh mead were always the partner with the Viking when they set sail abroad, in long journeys on the sea. In this article, you are going to learn the role of mead in Viking’s daily life. Why mead is considered a crucial factor in the Viking’s life, a little throw back history. And finally, “how to make mead like a Viking”.
The reason mead is a crucial factor in the Viking’s life
Norse mythology is where mead was born. Norse Mythology was the religion of the Vikings, and thus very significant in their daily lives. Hence, it followed Odin’s journey as he travels across the world, in search of the mead which lies hidden beneath a mountain. When he finds it, he consumes it in three large vats, gaining the ability to dispense unquestionable wisdom. Upon returning home to Asgard, it is said that Odin (now in the form of an eagle) regurgitated the mead back into the three vats. But when he did so, a few drops fell from his beak down to Midgard (our world) below. In their oral telling of this myth, the Vikings believed that the drops of fallen mead were the source of all bad poets. All good poets are those whom Odin has gifted his mead to personally.
Mead was served in Valhalla (also known as “the hall of the slain”), is a magnificent, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by god Odin. Chosen by Odin, then half of those who died in the battles will be led by Valkyries (Odin’s twelve handmaidens) to Valhalla as a reward and honor for those who had bravely fought in the battles in Midgard. Then in this place, the dead warriors after a long day of training were served the endless mead produced by the goat, which was so much in a day that it filled a massive vat large enough for all of the warriors in Valhalla to satisfy their thirst from it.
In short, the first reason mead is a significant factor in Viking’s daily life because it displays the courage trait of the Viking. They were born as warriors, and mead shows and honors that trait very well.
However, the second reason is quite harsh, because the Viking age was a time of tremendous suffering and hardship. Men and women’s health were much affected by the disease, and many Viking Age skeletons show severe health problems. Broken bones, iron deficiency, parasites, tooth decay, and child mortality were daily occurrences, etc.
And as I mentioned above, the mead is somewhat considered god’s beverage, as a result, the Viking people have faith that by drinking mead, god’s power will bless them. They will be cured and free from sicknesses. Then it passed down as tradition in descendants.
How to make Viking mead
Well, mead is fermented honey water. Add water to honey and it will literally ferment on its own (you use clean, non-chlorinated water and raw, unpasteurized honey) due to the yeasts and fermentation-enhancing microbes that occur naturally in honey.
Viking people were as many traders and settlers as they were raiders. Because of their extensive trading routes, they would have had access to a wide range of ingredients beyond what they could grow in their homelands. Many of these ingredients showed up in their meads, ales and other alcoholic drinks (according to archeological evidence).
Common fruits they would have eaten and brewed include raspberries, elderberries, hawthorn berries, cherries, sour cherries, bullaces, cloudberries, strawberries, crabapple, rose hips and rowan berries. They would have used a variety of herbs for flavoring, bittering and preservative effects as well.
Next, we will move to the part of “how to make mead like a Viking”.
The first crucial part of “how to make mead like a Viking”. Two ingredients never be missed are honey and spring water. Others like wildflowers or organic fruits are optional, you either favor red mead from blackberry or a little bit taste from violets or none. It is your preference, but if you are down with the original, honey and water are enough for Viking mead.
- At least one quart (2.5 lbs.) of raw, unfiltered honey (pasteurized honey won’t work)
- One gallon of spring water (or other clean, un-chlorinated drinking water)
- 4-5 organic raisins
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, or a whole lemon or orange
- A small handful of any wild botanical such as wildflower (violets and dandelions are good) petals (no greens!) as an optional additional source of wild yeast and nutrients.
- Any organic fruit such as berries, grapes or plums with a nice white powdering of natural yeast (just a few to start – also optional)
Don’t worry about the equipment, you don’t have to buy anything expensive, just things you can find in your kitchen and use them daily.
A wide-mouthed ceramic, glass or food-grade plastic fermentation vessel (3-5 gallons); do not use metal.
A wooden spoon
A clean cheesecloth, towel or t-shirt large enough to cover the opening of the vessel.
How to make mead, short steps
This is the short guideline to help you achieve the best mead made by your own. Nothing is complicated here, this is easy squeezy like lemon so that at the end your kitchen is still the same, and you can serve mead to your family and friends.
- Mix water and honey in a wide-mouthed vessel. Room-temperature water and honey are already at the ideal temperature for fermentation, so there is no need to heat the must (unfermented mead).
- Add flavoring and fermentation-enhancing ingredients. Around 5-6 organic raisins per gallon, as well as wild or domestic grapes, will provide nutrients, a bit of tannin, and wild yeast (for me I prefer less raisins because they are not my cup of tea). One note should be taken is herbs and spices should be added with care as they can easily become overpowering.
- Once you’ve mixed in your initial ingredients, set the vessel in a warm (15–27° C or 60–80° F) dark room, and stir the must vigorously for a couple of minutes several times a day. Cover the vessel with a clean cloth when not in use and tie the cloth tightly around the opening to avoid flies and ants (which I find is the most frustrated part when you ferment something).
- At this point, you can transfer the liquid into a narrow-necked jug.
- Although most meads need at least six months to mellow. Traditionally, meads are often drunk fresh, you can drink mead at any point now, it depends when do you like the flavor most.
And that is the guideline “how to make mead like a Viking” for you. While drinking with friends, remember raising your horn high and be sure to say skål!