Sugar Pie, Honey Wine


Despite my current, pervasive obsession with monkeys these days, I’m a Winnie the Pooh fan from way back. ‘Bother!’ is a frequent exclamation of mind and a few weeks ago Todd did the “think, think, think” line in the kitchen. Which prompted my favorite Pooh-quote ever:

I’m a little black rain cloud.

This line has been making us laugh at any given moment for the last month or so.

So, of course, when I decided to reread A History of Food and it starts with Collecting Honey as Chapter 1, I’m constantly thinking along the lines of our favorite bear. (Even if monkeys had enough sense to use a stick to avoid contact with the bees–we are talking about the bear of little brain, here.)

When I got to the section about “Mead and Sacramental Intoxication” my thoughts aged up several year to my brief stint with the Society for Creative Anachronism and the beverage so many were fond of.

My own personal favorite honey-drink was Hydromel which I could have sworn was non-alcoholic but all the references I can find (having never made it myself) call for a brief fermentation. Bother.

Still, when we used it at the Italian feast I did we diluted it to such an extent that it was probably not very strong at all.

I’ve seen various ratios of water to honey, anywhere from 5 to 11 parts of water to one part honey, but all of it gets boiled and skimmed of any impurities, reduced a bit, cooled and then combined with aromatics. Thin slices of ginger seem to be a must, with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves common flavorings as well–I’ve even seen reference to a sprig of rosemary!

After everything else a tiny amount of yeast is added and it gets set aside. Again, here opinions differ as to how long it should ferment. Some recipes call for only overnight or over the weekend while others suggest 5 to 6 weeks! Obviously, the longer it sits the stronger it gets (both in flavor and alcohol content) so do what feels right. And, of course, you can test it as it goes along–just make enough to account for, uh, quality control!

Once it’s where you want it, strain out your aromatics. My friend who made this for me preferred the large liquor bottles for storage and then diluted it  at least by fourths when she served it. It’s sweet and a little spicy (depending on your flavor combinations) but not over-powering in the honey department.

I know honey has been added to my shopping list, what about yours?