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Ancient Ingredients and Mead

I received an email from Michael who is doing some outstanding research on mead making.

And one of the things he is doing is researching ancient ingredients. Isn't that a whole lot of fun!

Anyway, he has shared his research with us.

And he has a recommended website for us:
for herbs, spices, and teas. Check out they have a large
variety of ingredients that could be a great resource for some interesting


So, if you are thinking about making some kind of an ancient mead or metheglin this research into various ingredients should be helpful or should give you some ideas.

My thanks go to Michael for sharing this with us. He is going to keep us updated on any experiments he does.

Sweet and tart taste with earthy undertones. Adds tannins.
If you are foraging for elderberry in the wild, there are a few poisonous
look-alike plants you'll want to avoid. Elderberry berries are black, they
grow in an umbrella shape, their leaves have a jagged edge like teeth, and the
stem of the plant has bark like a tree. The three look-alikes are Hercules
Club, Water Hemlock, and Pokeberry. Hercules Club Has thorns on the stem, and
smooth edged leaves. Water Hemlock does not grow berries and it's leaf veins
end in the notches between the teeth. Pokeberries have no bark on the stem
and their berries grow in fingerlike groups.
Hawthorn berry
The berries are sweet, tart, and fruity in flavor.
Hawthorn berry can have drug interactions when taken with medications that
treat high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and hypertension. I would
probably avoid hawthorn berry if you have these conditions or speak with your
doctor first.

Note about Hawthorn berry: The seeds are poisonous and
need to be removed from the fruit. Fortunately the common hawthorn has a
single seed similar to a cherry pit. The hawthorn berry is also high in
pectin, so be sure to use some pectic enzyme in your mead unless you want

Bullace is like a wild plum. The black bullace is small, round, and has a
black to purple color. It is very acidic until ripe. You should either cook
it or make sure it's fully ripe before using in your mead.

Cloudberry (Also known as bakeapple, knotberry, and low-bush salmonberry)
Amber colored and similar to raspberry or blackberry. Fresh berries are tart.
Over-ripe berries are creamy like yogurt and have a sweeter flavor.
Cloudberry is also used to flavor a Danish liquor called Akvavit which is used
to fortify and flavor the mead called Viking Blod.

The Rugosa variety of rose is said to be the best for rosehip. Other roses do
produce this fruit as well. Rosehip has a tangy sweetness. If you're growing
it yourself, you'll need to leave the blossoms on the plant until they die for
the fruit to form. Orange colored rosehips aren't ripe and deep red rosehips
are over ripe. When you harvest the rosehips, let them dry out in the sun
until they start to wrinkle. Cut them in half and scrape out the seeds before

Rowanberry (Also known as Mountain Ash)
Fresh berries are astringent and bitter to taste. It's best to pick them
after a frost or to freeze them yourself which brings out the sweetness.
Cooking it will also improve its sweetness. After freezing and cooking, they
should taste cranberry like. Rowanberry pairs well with honey, apple, pear,
orange, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, mint, basil, thyme,
tarragon, and bay leaves.

Meadowsweet (Also known as Meadwort and Bridewort)
Has a wintergreen and sweet almond fragrance. The flavor is similar to almond
and cucumber. Meadowsweet also has medicinal properties and is the source of
salicylic acid (used to make Aspirin). Tea made from meadowsweet can be used
to treat headache, aches and pains, and fevers. Avoid meadowsweet if you have
a known Aspirin allergy. For mead, hot infuse one ounce of dried leaves to
make a tea, then add flowers once cooled and mix with honey.

Has a licorice aroma, sweet flavor, and bitter/astringent finish.
For mead, use about 2 handfuls of dried yarrow blossom per gallon.

Don't use henbane. It's highly poisonous and I've only found bad things.
Small doses result in dilated pupils, restlessness, flushed skin, and
hallucinations. Larger doses result in racing heart, vomiting, extreme body
temperature fluctuations, the inability to control one's muscles, convulsions,
coma, and death.
Ancient Romans and Greeks would use henbane to enter a hallucinogenic trance
and try to predict the future. They didn't tend to live long though.

Flavor is intensely sour and tart.
I've seen a cyser recipe that uses crabapple. For a gallon of cyser, two cups
of cut crabapple, 3/4 gallon apple cider, two cups of water, and three pounds
of honey were used.

Often used in taco seasoning, chili, and curry.
Has a spicy/sweet aroma. Taste is pungent, powerful, sharp, and slightly

Grains of Paradise
Flavor is warm, spicy, and woodsy. I've also heard it's flavor is like black
pepper, cardamom, and lemon zest.

Strong and aromatic. It has a spicy, herbal, citrusy taste and goes well with
cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, clove, and other aromatic spices. Good with
citrus fruits as well.