This week’s mead recipe is from 1554. It is a simple recipe using anise as a flavoring.
Francois (Francisco, Franciscus) Valleriola (Valleriole) 1504-1580 was a Doctor practicing in Turin, Italy where he was also a professor of medicine appointed by the Duke of Piedmont. He was the author of at least 5 books on medical matters. One of these ‘Enarrationum medicinalium libri sex item’, contains the following passage:
Hoc es: Celerrime & universim vinum nutrit.
Itaque vini loco per accessionum impetus, aqua mellis in qua anisi semen ad ventriculi robur, & flatuum dissolutionem incoctum sit, ex Pauli sententia conveniet.
TRANSLATION (Laura Angotti): This is: wine nourishes rapidly and universally.
And so, instead of wine which comes in by force, use aqua mellis in which there are cooked anise seeds to support the stomach and dissolve the gas. As Pauli has agreed and understood.
Pauli is probably Paulus Aegineta, a 7th century compiler of medical knowledge. My records do not show other references to anise mead from Aegineta, which suggests a line for further investigation.
Anise from the 6th c. Codex Julianus Aniciae
Anise is one of the more common additions to mead. Treating gas was one of the most common uses. Anise has also been used in sweets and as a breath freshener.
This recipe can be interpreted as either anise cooked into mead after fermentation, or fermentation of mead after anise has been cooked into the must.
Montpellier, France in 1562
Valleriola trained at the medical school in Montpelier, which is located slightly closer to Spain than Italy along the Mediterranean coast of France. Montpellier is the oldest still-active medical school in Europe. Salerno was older and is more famous (founded in the 9th century south of Rome), but was disbanded in 1811. Montpellier was originally established probably in the 10th century; by the 12th century it was a prosperous trading town. With the spice trade came knowledge of Arabic medicine. By 1000 graduates of Salerno were teaching at Montpellier. The Univeratas Medicorum was established and blessed by Pope Honorius III in 1220. The successor to this school remains in operation today. (Regnier, 2015; Lyons, Undated)
I made an anise mead with about 1 ½ tsp anise boiled in per gallon. It had a relatively low sugar content and fermented dry. The nose was reminiscent of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with some sharp and acid overtones; anise was present but not strong. The flavor was moderately anise in taste, with little honey residual.
Map of Montpellier from Braun & Hogenberg. 1572. Civitates orbis terrarium. © The Hebrew University of Jerusalem & The Jewish National & University Library