Tag Archives: Medieval

Chainmail 101.5: Beginner’s Chainmail with Advanced Topics

Overview:

Welcome to Chainmail 101.5. This workshop will cover the basic techniques of mail production including:

Essential Tools for making Chainmail

  • Turning wire into rings
  • Knitting Steel
  • The 4 in 1 pattern
  • The 6 in 1 pattern
  • The 8 in 1 pattern

We will also cover these additional advanced topics:

  • Constructing a Wire Crank
  • Creating a Coif

Essential Tools and Materials for Making Chainmail:

The tools required for making chainmail are simple and easy to obtain. They also depend on whether you are making the rings or purchasing them. Personally, I prefer to make my own rings. This gives you satisfaction of saying “I made this from scratch!” and it is more cost effective. A ¼ mile of 14 gauge Galvanized Steel wire cost about $15 at Farm & Fleet and will produce at least 20 lbs of rings (I haven’t actually weighed the spool so I’m estimating from heft) whereas a 5 lb bag of rings usually runs for about $15-$20 on Ebay. This list below are the required tools and materials for working from scratch.

  • 14-16 Gauge Wire (I recommend 14 gauge as it is more durable)
  • Wire Spinning Crank
  • Clippers (Tin Snips, Heavy Duty Wire Cutters, or equivalent)
  • 2 Pairs of pliers (Pick your favorite type)
  • 3 Containers to put your rings in (Open, Closed, Unprocessed)

Turning Wire into Rings:

The process of winding rings can be the most tedious part of mail making, but it is also the most important (without rings you won’t get very far on your project!). The first thing you must decide is what size rings you will produce. The most common and versatile size is 3/8”, but I have also seen people use ¼” and 5/16”. This decision affects the construction of the wire spinning device (see appendix A)

The next step is to make a spring, insert the wire in the retaining hole and slowly turn the crank. The wire should wind along the spindle as close to the previous coil as possible. If you go to fast, you might get an overlap which will cause you to lose rings when you cut them. When the spindle is full, clip the wire, or pull the end out of the hole, and slide your spring off.

Now that you have a spring the real fun starts. Pick an end of the spring to start on and start clipping. The first cut will usually be to snip off excess wire, but from that point on you should start seeing good rings. Clip straight up the coil for best results. You should get about 100 rings out of a 10” spring.

Now you have a pile of unprocessed rings and it is time to sort them out and process them. How you sort the rings depends on your style of mail making. I usually sort them into two piles with 2 rings to be closed for every 1 open. To make closed rings, hold the ring in one pair of pliers and use the other to twist the ends until they meet. To make open rings, twist the rings to be so that the ends are about 2 wire widths apart (depending on how tight your coil was some rings may already be “open”).

You have now successfully created the building blocks for your Chainmail project.

Knitting Steel:

There are a number of patterns that can be used for producing chainmail, or knitting steel. Some patterns are very complex and most often used for jewelry making. In this workshop, we will stick to the “functional” patterns that are used for armor. The patterns are referred to by the number of rings linked through an given link: 4 in 1, 6 in 1, or 8 in 1. You choose the pattern based on the ring size and the density of the finished product. Since we are using 3/8” rings any of the patterns can be used. The most common pattern is 4 in 1, which is quick to produce and provides a loose but effective weave. I use this weave for making ceremonial chainmail items. For armor grade I use 6 in 1, but that is my personal preference 4 in 1 is sufficient for heavy list. Examples of the different weaves are shown below.

The 4 in 1 Pattern:

Steps for constructing 4 in 1 Chainmail strip:

  1. Place 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and then close it
  2. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 2 of rings in the previous set
  3. Repeat step 2 until you have a strip of the desired length
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have created the desired number of strips
  5. Connect the strips together by weaving open links through four links, 2 from each strip.

The 6 in 1 Pattern:

Steps for constructing 6 in 1 Chainmail strip:

  1. Place 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and then close it
  2. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 4 of rings in the previous set
  3. Repeat step 2 until you have a strip of the desired length
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until you have created the desired number of strips
  5. Connect the strips together by weaving open links through 6 links, 3 from each strip.
  6. Match any additional rings needed, ie., a ring through the first 4

The 8 in 1 pattern:

Steps for constructing 8 in 1 Chainmail strip:

  1. Place 4 closed rings on 1 open ring and then close it
  2. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 4 of rings in the previous set
  3. Add two closed rings to an open and then loop the open ring through 6 of rings in the previous set
  4. Repeat step 3 until you have a strip of the desired length
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until you have created the desired number of strips
  6. Connect the strips together by weaving open links through 8 links, 4 from each strip.
  7. Match any additional rings needed, ie., a ring through the first four and then through the first 6

Adding Single Rows:

Adding a single row of mail to an existing strip is accomplished by weaving open rings through the bottom row of the strip using the technique described for connecting strips

Adding Double Rows:

To add double rows, you need to start with 2 closed rings on one open ring. Connect the open link through the first 2 links in the strip. From this point on, add one closed link to the open and then connect it through the appropriate number of rings on the strip and in front of it. Eg., for 4 in1 the open link should have 1 closed link and then attach to 2 rings from the strip and 1 ring from the previous addition. For 6 in 1, it would have 1 closed and attach to 3 from the strip and two from the previous addition.

Appendix A: Constructing a Wire Crank

The wire crank is an essential tool used to convert wire into springs or coils. The springs are then cut to form the individual rings used to produce chainmail.

Building a Period-style Wire Crank:

The materials used to construct a crank are as follows:

· 2 1’ pieces of 2×4

· 1 2’ x 8” piece of plywood (or equivalent)

· 1 2’ piece of 3/8” dowel (or whatever size you want your rings to be)

· 1 6” piece of a 1” dowel

· 1 6” 1×2

· A drill

· 4 Drill bits (7/16”, 3/8”, 1”, and 5/64” or 3/32”)

· Screwdriver

· 4 2” wood screws

· Tack hammer

· 2 2” nails (small gauge)

· 2 Carter Pins

Construction Steps

1. Drill a hole in the center of the 2x4s about 1” from the top using the 7/16” bit. This hole will be large enough for the dowel to slide through an rotate smoothly.

2. Attach the 2x4s to the plywood using the wood screws. I recommend attaching them centered and about 1” in from the edge.

3. Drill two holes, 1” and 3/8”, in the 1×2, one at each end.

4. Push the 1” dowel into the 1” hole and secure with a nail through the end of the 1×2.

5. Attach the handle you just made to the 3/8” dowel in the same manner.

6. When everything is dry, slide the crank through the holes in the 2x4s. position the crank so that there is about a 1”space between the handle and first 2×4.

7. You will now need to mark three points on the 3/8” dowel. The first 2 will be for restraining clips to prevent the crank from sliding out prematurely. The marks should be made on the outside of the 2x4s. The third point should be about ½” in from the 2×4 farthest from the handle. The third point will be the hole to secure the wire.

8. Remove the crank from the jig.

9. Using the smaller bit, drill holes in the crank at the points you have marked.

10. Place a carter pin in the hole closest to the crank handle and place the crank back into the jig

11. Push the remaining carter pin into the hole on the other end of the crank.

12. You are now ready to use the crank to produce springs.

A Modern Wire Crank:

A much faster crank can be made from a variable speed drill and a 3/8” dowel. I do not recommend using a dowel over 1′ in length as it will be unwieldly. The first thing you need to do is to drill a hole through the dowel large enough to insert the wire. Once this is done, insert the dowel in the drill and tighten it down. You are now ready to produce your springs (Aren’t modern conveniences wonderful!)

I have also heard tell of someone using a metal lathe with a custom feeder jig for the wire, but I don’t know too many people who have one of these laying around their house.

Appendix B: Making a Chainmail Coif

The following instructions can be modified to construct a more form fitting coif. If followed exactly, they will produce one with the same dimensions as mine, ie it will fit my head quite well. The measurement I used to determine how many rings I needed to fit around my head was 24”. This is measured just above your eyebrows and all the way around.

1. Link 12 rings on a single center ring and lay flat.

2. Attach 12 rings by connecting 1 open ring through 2 closed such that the added rings will overlap the previous by 1 ring.

3. Repeat step 2

4. Repeat step 2 and then add another ring to every second ring in the previous level. The expansion rings should only connect to one closed ring. This will expand the ring count to 18

5. Using the same method as in step 2, add 18 rings

6. Repeat Step 5 again and then add expansion rings every second ring. You will now have a base of 27

7. Add 27 rings and then add expansion rings every 3rd ring. The level will now be expanded to 36

8. Add 36 rings

9. Repeat step 8 and then add expansion rings every 2nd ring. You will now have a base of 54 rings.

10. Add 54 rings as the next level.

11. Repeat step 10 until the caplet created ends just above your eyebrows.

12. Count the number of rings that hang above your face. This number will be used to determine how long of a strip you will need to add to go around the back of your head; Subtract the number from 54 to get the number of rings required. Most likely this will be around 16 rings.

13. Construct enough strips of chainmail of the appropriate length (38 rings) to reach from the base of your caplet to the base of your neck.

14. To construct the mantle, assemble 2 strips of mail 60 rings long and connect them.

15. Add expansion rings to the bottom row every 3rd ring, this will bring you to 80 rings

16. Assemble 2 more strips of mail 80 rings in length and connect them

17. Add expansion rings to the last row every 4th ring, to bring the total to 100 rings

18. Add 2 more strips of mail 100 rings in length.

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Making a Bow Stringer

The kindest thing an archer can do for his bow is to use a bow stringer. Aside from making it easier to string the bow, the stringer allows for applying even pressure on the limbs during stringing so there is less chance of breaking or damaging the bow. This article will explain how to make a stringer that will work on most bows. The stringer is made up of three parts, the pocket, the saddle, and the cord. The function of each part is explained at the end of the article.

To make a simple stringer you will need the following:

· a length of cord 7-8’ long ( I use 8’)

· a scrap of leather or suede at least 5 inches square

· a hole punch

· a rivet (not a pop-rivet) or heavy waxed thread and needle

Figure 1: Leather Tab Patterns
Figure 1: Leather Tab Patterns
You will need to cut two shapes for the leather (see diagrams). The first piece will be used to make the pocket. This piece is shaped like a “T” and measures 4.5” for the top and 5” for the body. The second piece should be 3” long and 1” wide. I usually round the short edges. Once these are cut you are ready to begin assembly.

You will need to punch holes in the ¼” from each of the sides of the saddle. The holes should be large enough to fit your cord through. The number holes required for the “T” depends on whether you use a rivet or thread. If using thread, you will only need one hole, large enough for the cord to pass through twice, punched ¼” from the bottom of the “T”. The diagram shows the single hole and the approximate holes for the rivet.

Figure 2: How to fold the pocket tab
Figure 2: The Pocket

To make the pocket you will need to fold the top of the “T” over twice and then fold the flaps under so the overlap. You will then secure the bottom three layers; the two flaps and “T” body. You should now have a pocket with a loop above it (see diagram).You can now run your cord and complete the stringer

Start running the cord into the “T” with the pocket on top. The cord should pass through the hole from the top; then through the loop (pictured on the left above), and then back through the hole from the bottom. Once the cord is run, secure the strand together with a knot. The saddle is strung by running the cord up through the first hole, down through the second, and securing the cord together with a knot that will not slip. You should leave some room in the loop so it will slip over the bow without too much trouble.

Figure 3: A completed bow stringer
Figure 3: A Completed Bow Stringer

 

 

 

You now have a bow stringer, but do you know how to use it? If not read on and I will offer a quick lesson in stringing your bow. Hold the bow so the string hangs beneath it and slip the pocket of the stringer over the end that already has the string in place. Now slip the saddle over the other end and position it just behind the other loop in the bowstring. Place your foot on the stringer cord and pull up on the handle of the bow; the bow will bend into shape. While holding it in position, slip the loose loop down into position. Your bow is now strung. You should verify that both ends of the string are seated correctly before drawing the bow.

Outdoor Games Played in Medieval Times and Earlier

Overview:

Finding something to do at an event when you’re too young to take part in many activities can be difficult. In this class, we will learn some games that are easy and appropriate for events. This isn’t as difficult as you might expect, in fact you may already know several of the games. Here is the list:

  • Hopscotch
  • Hoodsman’s (Blind Man’s) Bluff / Jingling
  • Barley Break
  • How Many Miles to London?
  • Bowls/Bocce/Boules

Hopscotch:

Hopscotch dates back to the Roman occupation of Britain. The first thing to be done is to draw a course, several common court styles are seen below.

Each player then chooses a marker, usually a stone. Play begins with the first player tossing his stone into the first space. If the stone lands completely within the designated square, the player proceeds to hop through the course. A player can only have one foot in any given square, so single squares must be balanced and double squares (side by side) are straddled. While hopping, the player should alternate the foot he lands on for each square. Any space not marked with a number, ie London, Home, etc., are considered rest squares and can be landed in any fashion.

When the player reaches the top of the court, he then turns around and comes back, collecting his marker along the way. Play then continues with the player tossing his marker into the second square and so on.

If a player fails to toss his marker into the correct square or if it touches a line the players turn ends. The same is true if the player steps on a line, misses a square, or loses his balance and falls.

The first player to complete the course for each numbered square wins.

Hoodsman’s Blind / Jingling:

Hoodsman’s Blind is known today as Blind Man’s Bluff. The person who is “It” is blindfolded or hooded and must try to catch any player that ventures too close. The other players see how close they can get to “It” without getting caught. The last person caught is “It” for the next game.

Jingling is the reverse of Hoodsman’s Bluff. All of the players are blindfolded except “It”. “It” is given a string of bells and the players must try to catch him. The person who catches “It” is “It” for the next game.

Barley Break:

The game starts by marking an area on the ground by drawing a circle or other shape. “It” cannot leave this area. The players must try to run through the area without getting tagged. If a player is tagged, they must join hands with “It” and help to catch the other players. As more players get tagged, they join onto the end of the line. Only those at the ends of the line can tag a player. Those in the middle can however help to “net” the player as they try to run through. The last person caught is “It” for the next game.

How Many Miles to London?:

This game begins with “It” being blindfolded. The other players then stand in a line and ask “It” for directions. “It” tells them how many steps to take forward backward, left, or right they must go. Then “It” is led to the starting point and must follow his own directions. When “It” has reached the final destination, he must try to touch another player. The other players may duck or sway to avoid being touched, but they cannot move their feet. If a player is tagged, then he is the next “It” otherwise “It” must try again.

Bowls/Bocce/Boules:

This game has many names of which I have mentioned three. Each variation has minor adjustments in the rules, but essentially are the same. The equipment required for the game is 1 small white ball (about 1 – 1 ½” in diameter) and 2-4 balls of about 3” diameter for each player. The field is a flat stretch of ground generally 10’ wide by 60’ long (the distance can vary depending on the age and skill of the players).

Play starts by throwing the small white ball known as a “Jack”, “Pallino”, or “Cochonnet”. The ball must land at least halfway up the designated field to be in play. The players then take turns trying to roll their balls closest to the “Jack”. When a player succeeds in getting his ball closest, his turn ends. If a player runs out of balls before getting “Best Ball” then they must wait while the other players attempt to improve their positions.

A player can get “best ball” in several ways. First they can simply roll their ball closest to the jack. He could also use his ball to hit another player’s ball away or one of his own closer. The player can also hit the jack causing it to move away from the other players’ balls.

At the end of each round, the player whose balls are closest gets one point for each ball nearer to the jack than any other players’. Games are usually played until a score of 15 is reached.

On the Making of Mead: An Introduction to the History and Practice of Brewing Honey Wine.

The following text has been created to serve as an introduction to mead and mead making. The material contained within is not specific to the Medieval and Renaissance periods as that time frame is just a small portion of the history of mead. Instead, I have chosen a broader scope which begins in Antiquity and ends in your kitchen. I believe the result is a well rounded overview which will not only whet your appetite for knowledge but teach you how to brew something to slake your thirst while delving deeper into your own studies.

A Brief History of Mead

Mead has been enjoyed by man through the ages from pre-history to the present day.

A Not So Brief History of Mead

Most people are familiar with the argument of whether the chicken or the egg came first, but not as many realize that there is a similar argument surrounding beer, wine, and mead. All three of these beverages can be traced back into antiquity through writings, art, and archaeological findings which makes finding an absolute answer to the question extremely complex. Rather than trying to unravel the threads and divine an altruistic answer, this work will present the facts and theories surrounding the origins and history of mead while making no apologies for perceived bias in the writing.

It is important to have a basic definition to work from when interpreting historical references. The definition must be neither too broad nor too narrow to be effective. In its most basic form, mead is the product of combining honey and water. Yeast would be the third ingredient in the list if we wanted to restrict the definition to alcoholic beverages, but this would also make it harder to locate references since most historical texts do not mention yeast. For the purposes of this article, mead will be defined as a beverage made from a solution of honey, water, and optionally other ingredients for flavoring.

One of the most intriguing facts about mead is that it occurs naturally when honey reaches a sufficient moisture level. With this in mind, it is not unreasonable to theorize that man did not invent mead but rather discovered it while seeking food in a hollow tree. An alternate theory for the discovery of mead works on the same basis but includes man actively gathering and storing honey and some of the containers became contaminated with water which resulted in the wondrous beverage being created. Using either of these concepts, we can speculate that once man began using honey as a normal food source the possibility of discovering mead rose exponentially. The earliest indications found relating to honey gathering are cave paintings and rock drawings dating back to around 15,000 BC (Schramm, 5). Given the nature of mead, there is no way to actually determine when the first batch was created but it should be very safe to say that man was enjoying mead long before he ended his days of cave-dwelling.

The skeptical reader is no doubt wondering why mead would have been forgotten until the Middle Ages if it was discovered so long in the past. Mead wasn’t forgotten; it just existed under different names such as soma, pyment, hydromel, and nectar. References to mead can be found throughout the ancient world from mythology and religious texts to accounts by Greek and Roman historians.

The Many Names of Mead

Let me start by saying that this section is not going to be about what the word “mead” translates to in other languages. It will, however, cover the various types of meads which have had names coined for them. In my studies, I have found that there is some contention over the appropriateness of some of these terms. The main issue is whether or not the distinctions are modern inventions. While a number of  the names do date to the Medieval period or earlier, the actual adherence to the terms and definitions is not strict before modern times (Krupp, 7). My general opinion is that they are all meads and the names are more guidelines for discussing them in a modern context.

Melomels:

This designation is used to describe meads that have been flavored with fruits. The term derived from the Roman name for a beverage made from honey and fruit juices, melomeli (Papazian/Gayre, 113).

Pyment:

The exact nature of pyment is a question of perspective. Some sources state that pyment is wine that has been sweetened with honey . Under the broader definition of what mead is, a fermented beverage made with honey, pyment would classify as a mead made with grapes.   While Papazian continually refers to pyment as a wine, he gives proof that it is more a mead while quoting Chaucer (Papazian/Gayre, 116).

Cyser:

A form of hard cider which uses honey rather than mead as an additive. It can also be made as a mead with apples, cider, or apple juice added for flavor.

Morat:

Mulberries are used to provide a deep color and rich flavor to this form of mead.

Perry:

Pears or pear juice adds its delicate flavor to this form of melomel to produce a crisp refreshing beverage.

Metheglins:

Braggot:

A braggot is often described as “a mead with a beer in it”. This description is fairly accurate since the additional flavors come from barley or hops which is the main ingredient for making beers and ales.

Rhodomel:

A Greek and Roman mead flavored with rose petals. (Schramm, 19-20) (Papazian/Gayre, 114).

Hydromel:

Some references use the term hydromel and mead interchangeably but it has been my experience that this term refers to a mead that has been cut with water to reduce its potency.

Sack:

A sack mead is made by increasing the ratio of honey to water such that the finished product is much sweeter than a typical mead.

Brewing a Basic Mead

Now I am hoping that you have prepared yourself to unravel the complicated and intricate methods and practices involved in the making of mead. If you are truly ready to learn the arcane knowledge that will start you on your way to producing the drink of the gods, you are about to be very surprised by the simplicity of it all.

The most basic of meads is also known as traditional mead. The ingredients list consists entirely of two things honey and water. Of course, yeast will help if you intend to make an alcoholic beverage, but it isn’t required to be on the shopping list. When working from many early recipe sources, yeast is not listed as an additive. This is due to the fact that brewers of the time didn’t know that yeast is what caused the fermentation. Most often the must of these ancient brewers would be impregnated by yeast in the environment. This could be wild, airborne yeasts, bread yeast if the mead was made in a kitchen where baking was being done, or those that were residuals in the vessels used to make previous batches.

Once you have the ingredients, the next step is to gather the tools and equipment needed. Many people think that this means spending large amounts of money on gadgets and gizmos, but this really isn’t the case. The essential list of things you need is: a stock pot (preferably steel so it doesn’t impart a metallic taste to your mead), a long spoon, a funnel, and something to put your must in to ferment. There are some additional items that will make life easier and help you to produce “better” mead, such as airlocks, hydrometers, carboys of various sizes, hoses, bottles, corks, corkers, filters, and the list goes on long enough to make your head spin and your checkbook cry for mercy. For our purposes, I will be covering how you can start brewing with items you probably already have around the house or can obtain for $20 or less.

Referring back the basic equipment list, the first item we need to find is a large enough stock pot. The recipe to be used here makes 1 gallon of traditional mead. The stock pot you will need should hold 6-12 quarts. The next items on the list are also fairly common in any kitchen, a spoon long enough to reach the bottom of the pot without putting your hand in the boiling liquid and a funnel (any size will do but a wide mouth funnel will make pouring easier). The last item in our essentials list is something to put the must in to ferment. Most brewers will recommend glass bottles or carboys for this because they are easy to clean and do not absorb smells the way plastic can. For someone just starting out, I recommend 1 gallon plastic bottles. I used plastic apple juice bottles since my kids made them readily available in abundance. If you would prefer glass, I have found that 1 gallon wine bottles work wonderfully, in fact, they are the same as the 1 gallon carboys you can purchase at brewing supply shops only you need to empty them first. Once you have all of these items, you are ready to begin.

As a general rule, the ratio of honey to water is 2.5-3lbs honey per gallon of water (Papazian/Gayre, 169). As we are making a 1 gallon batch, we will need 3lbs of honey (less measuring that way) and 1 gallon of water. Start by bringing the water to a boil and then stir in the honey. Continue stirring until the honey is completely dissolved and then remove your must from the heat. Allow your must to cool  to room temperature and then pour it into your bottle (this is where the funnel comes in handy). At this point we need to get some yeast into the must and to do this you have 2 options, adding some yourself or sitting hopefully waiting for some stray yeast to come along. I recommend using some store bought yeast.

Since I didn’t go into this earlier, you can get brewer’s yeast from any number of brewing supply shops either locally or on-line. If for some reason you can’t find brewer’s yeast, you can use regular bread yeast from the grocery store. Using bread yeast will change the taste of your resulting mead. I have done this and received compliments, so it really boils down to your personal tastes.

Before adding the yeast to your must, called pitching, you will need to activate it. There are directions on the yeast packet regarding how to do this. Basically, you dissolve the yeast  in a small amount of warm water or juice. A better method is to take a small amount of your must to use as a starter. Once your yeast has been activated, it will usually start to foam after a few minutes, pour this into your must and mix it in. I use the handle of my long spoon for this.

You are now ready to sit back and let the yeast do its magic. Since we are working with very basic equipment found in the kitchen, you will need to make a decision about how to seal the bottle while the yeast is working. You can use the lid for the bottle but you will need to be very diligent if you do. While the yeast is producing alcohol, it is also making CO2. This means that if your bottle is air tight it will build up pressure and could explode. During a vigorous fermentation, even putting the cap on loosely could be too tight, so you will want to carefully open the cover from time to time to release the pressure. Another option is to use a cloth held over the opening with a rubber band. This works fairly well. If you are planning to continue brewing, I strongly recommend investing in airlocks. They only cost around $1 and they will protect your mead and your kitchen (I’ve seen carbouys explode from pressure and it isn’t pretty!!)

After about a week, you will notice that the bubbles in your brew are decreasing or have stopped. You will also notice a build up of sludge (actually called lees) on the bottom of your bottle. Most brewers recommend racking, transferring your mead to a new bottle and leaving the sludge behind, at this point. Racking is much easier to do if you have a length of food grade tubing, which can be found in most hardware stores, but can be done by carefully pouring your mead into a new bottle.

If you have made it this far, then you are now the proud brewer of a batch of mead. The question that   you are undoubtedly asking is, “When can I drink it?” This is a question that will bring about debate from brewers everywhere. Technically, your mead can be served when the fermentation stops, or even before if you really wanted to. Most mead makers today prefer to age their meads to improve the quality. Aging can take anywhere from 1 month up to 2 years or more depending on the mead. For the beginning brewer, I recommend tasting your mead to see if you like it. If you like the taste, then you are ready to serve, if not then close it up and put it in a cool dark place for a month or so.

Additional Recipes

The following recipes were gathered from various sources including my own recipe book.

Wulfric’s Traditional Mead (AKA BOOM!)

This wondrous mead may never truly be duplicated, but we are extremely hopeful. The first time I used this recipe, the result was a lightly sweet mead with an alcohol content of 22%, hence the name “BOOM!” This recipe is for a 5 gallon batch. If you do not have a pot large enough to heat all of the water and honey at once, you can hold 3 gallons aside and add it to the carboy later. This method is good for cooling the must quicker if you use cold water.

25 lbs Raw Dark Honey

5 Gallons Water

1 tsp Yeast Nutrient

1 pkg Lalvin D47 Active Dry Yeast

Heat water and honey to just below boiling, stirring to until the honey is completely dissolved. Skim the solution as needed to keep the surface relatively clear. Remove from heat and let stand until cool. While the must is cooling, you can start your yeast. When the must is below 90°F pour it into a carboy, pitch yeast and seal with a airlock.

When the bubbles slow to one or two per minute, you should rack the mead into a clean carboy. You will want to have an airlock on the new carboy in case a secondary fermentation starts. Allow the mead to sit in the carboy in a cool place until it clears, or clears enough for you (I don’t mind cloudy meads, they have more character), and then bottle.

“A Most Excellent Metheglin” (Digbie, 68-69)

This recipe is a nearly period recipe for metheglin from Digbie. I will list both the original text as well as the redaction.

“Take one part of honey, to eight parts of Rain or River-water; let it boil gently together, in a fit vessel, till a third part be wafted, skimming it very well. The sign of being boiled enough is, when a New-laid-egg swims upon it. Cleanse it afterwards by letting it run through a clean Linnen-cloth, and put it into a wooden Runlet, where there hath been wine in, and hang in it a bag with Mustard-seeds by the bung, that so you may take it out when you please. This being done, put your Runlet into the hot Sun, especially during the Dog-days, (which is the onely time to prepare it) and your Metheglin will boil like Must; after which boiling take out your Mustard-seeds, and put your vessel well stopped into a Cellar. If you will have it the taste of wine, put to thirty measures of Hydromel, one measure of the juice of the hops, and it will begin to boil without any heat. Then fill up your vessel, and presently after this ebullition you will have a very strong Metheglin.” (Digbie, 68-69)

For my interpretation of this recipe, I will plan to produce a 5 gallon batch. I have chosen this number because of the specification to pour your must into a “Runlet”. A runlet (rundlet) is a cask or barrel that holds between 3 and 20 gallons (14.5 is most common). Since most brewers don’t have barrels, I’m opting to plan for a 5 gallon carboy.

5 pints Honey (approximatly 5 lbs)

5 gallons Water

1 tbl Mustard Seed

1 pint Juice of Hops (optional)

1 pkt Yeast (if using a clean carbouy)

Boil the water and honey until the starting volume is reduced by one third. Alternately, you can check if it has boiled enough by placing an egg in the must. The egg should be fairly round and as fresh as possible. If the egg floats then you have boiled it down far enough. In this situation, the egg is serving as a hydrometer.

After the boiling, filter the must by pouring it through a clean linen cloth into your carbouy (or cask if you have one). The original recipe specifies that it should be a container that had wine in it before. While this may seem odd, the reason behind it is that there would be residual yeast in the container and that is why the recipe doesn’t call for the addition of any. Since sanitation is a major concern for most modern brewers, I have included a pkt of yeast in the recipe. The yeast should be added once the must has cooled a bit so as not to kill the yeast. You should then place the mustard seed in a linen bag and hang it in the must so that it can be easily removed later. A string tied around the bag that runs out of the stopper works well for this. When you have everything in place, put your carbouy in a warm place to work.

When the initial fermentation is complete, remove the mustard seeds, securely seal the carbouy and move it to a cellar (or other cool, dark place). At this time, you can optionally add 1 pt of “Juice of Hops”, which I suspect is the result of boiling hops in water, to 30 pints of your Metheglin. Since 5 gallons  is the equivalent of 40 pints, you can either remove a portion  of the metheglin, increase the amount of hops to 1 1/3 pints, or call it close enough. Your metheglin will begin a secondary fermentation at this point. When that completes, you should have “a most excellent metheglin”.

“Damn Shame”: A non-alcoholic mead

There have been a number of occasions in which I wanted to serve mead but could not distribute alcoholic beverages. I rose to this challenge by creating the following recipes.  While the steps are very similar to making the “fully leaded” version, you do not add yeast. The omission of yeast means that there is no waiting period outside of allowing the must to cool before bottling.

Cinnamon
2 gallons water
4 cups honey
2 cinnamon sticks

Allspice
2 gallons water
4 cups honey
1 tsp whole allspice (crushed coarsly in a mortar & pestle)



Heat the water in a large pot. Once the water is hot, add the honey and stir until all of the honey dissolved. Continue heating the mixture but do not boil it. If you notice a scum floating on top, skim this off and discard it. I typically keep the mixture in low heat for about 20 minutes or so after mixing. Remove from heat and add the spices. Allow your brew to stand until it reaches room temperature and then strain and bottle it. Alternately, you could simply add all of the ingredients in at once and then heat it, but I prefer to do it in stages.

 

(Sibley)(Shapiro)(Griffith)

Bibliography

Digbie, Sir Kenelme, The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Opened… s.l., London: E.C. for H. Brome, 1669. (Reproduction by Mallinckrodt Chemical Works 1967)

Griffith, Ralph T. H., Sacred Writings Volume 5 – Hinduism: The Rig Veda, New York, NY: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1992.

Krupp, Christina M and Bill Gillen, “Making Medieval Mead or Mead Before Digby”, The Compleat Anachronist 120 (July 2003) : .

Papazian, Charlie and G. Robert Gayre, Brewing Mead : Wassail! In Mazers of Mead, Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 1986.

Schramm, Ken, The Compleat Meadmaker, Boulder, CO: Brewers Publications, 2003.

Shapiro, Mark, “Alcoholic Drinks of the Middle Ages”, The Compleat Anachronist 60 (March 1992) : .

Sibley, Jane, “The CA Guide to Brewing”, The Compleat Anachronist 5 (March 1983) : .