Making ‘Mirth’ Letitia Cromwell c. 1600

Since I’m late, again, I’m going to make this week’s recipe one I’ve already posted, but which was not featured as a recipe of the week.

Mirth

In my (copious) spare time, I’ve been partaking of a project sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library (and its Early Modern Manuscripts Online), Oxford English Dictionary, and Zooniverse. This project focuses on transcribing manuscripts (mostly letters, cookbooks, and medical recipe books) mostly from the 17th and 18th century into a form where they can be searched and used more readily. And in the process find new words, new spelling, and older/novel usages. Check out https://www.shakespearesworld.org/#/ .

One of these manuscripts was written around 600 by Leticia Cromwell. It contains a recipe titled ‘’To make Mirth’. Puns aside, this appears to be a misspelling of ‘meth’ for metheglin.

Looking at the scanned manuscript page containing the recipe, I transcribe it as

To make mirth

Take 2 or 3 Gallons of Water to the leavings of the Honey & breake & straine ye Comes with it & boile it in water an howre & straine it put to it a sprig of rose: & some bay leaves with it, then put in Cloves sinamon & ginger & some littell Nutmegs & boile it with these & when it is Cold put it into a rundlet & a littell new barme at top

The Manuscript

This is a fairly straightforward recipe, but is complicated by the lack of quantities for honey and herbs, and the uncertainties surrounding use of drained combs as the honey source. I wrote about redacting and making it here http://mysteryofmead.com/recipes/making-mirth-c-1600/

This mixing of herbs and spices is quite common in recipes from this period, and the herbs and spices used are all common additions to mead. Balancing the flavors and amounts can be tricky, in this case I chose to strain them out before fermentation, limiting

The brew looks like it has finished fermentation, and we tasted it this weekend. It fermented to about 7% ABV, with a gravity of 1.28. This left a little more sugar in it than planned, as I had hoped it would ferment out to about 9%, and a final gravity of 1.015.

This uncertainty of fermentation results is a state that modern mead makers work very hard to avoid. And a number of tools in the modern arsenal could be used to make this recipe achieve an end-point determined by the brewer rather than one determined by the whims of yeast and chance.

Mirth is sweet (how suitable). It has a very nice honey nose, and honey is the first flavor. The bay and nutmeg flavors are strongest of the additions, but the other remains present.

Scan of manuscript page courtesy of the Folger Library.

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