Dioscorides’ text is at its core a list of plants (and other materials) and their appearance, and medical effects. This is not, on the surface, a place where one would expect to find recipes for mead. Yet the core Dioscorides text contains about a dozen recipes for fermented honey drinks.
Most texts based on Dioscorides present most or all of these recipes, and they are generally in a somewhat predictable order. The names associated with each recipe show some variation, as the terms were translated and authors may have made attempts to use terms that were more familiar to their contemporary audience (for whom fermented honey drinks would have names that may not have depended on the old Latin etymology).
In one respect Dioscorides is a very typical place to find mead recipes, simply in that it is not obvious. Historical information and recipes for mead can be found in travelogues, medicinal books, technical works, herbals, and laws and regulations as well as in the more expected texts on farming, beekeeping, brewing, cooking, and household activities..
This week’s recipe, Thalassiomel, or seawater mead, is one I am confident I will never make (Adynamon a close cousin was sufficient to satisfy my curiosity). This section actually presents two different recipes, but given their essential unpalatability to most, I’m not going to stretch them out across two weeks.
Sea Water and Mead, not Seawater Mead
1516 Baptista/Barolo Book V Thalassomeli DCCCLI
Purgat Magnifice & quod Thalassomeli appellaverunt aequia portionibus mellis: imbris: maris que percollata vase picato condantur. Aesta te canis ortum secuta insole habenda. Quidam cum maris decocti partibus duabus unam mellis mergentes Fictilibus condunt. Hoc & mitius & blandius que marina usu evadit.
TRANSLATION (Laura Angotti): It cleans excellently and that Thalassiomel is made from equal parts of honey, rainwater, and seawater, which ferments in a vessel pitched closed. It ferments in the dogs days in the sun. Some make it with two parts of seawater cooked with one of honey merged put into clay. It becomes sweet and mild when seawater use escapes.
Equal parts honey, rainwater and seawater or two parts seawater to one part honey. The second version mirrors the hydromel recipe, replacing plain water with seawater.
These recipes using salt and salt water seem to appear solely in texts that are based on Dioscorides (with one possible exception, but which is also of Roman extraction), and have no apparent life beyond that historical context. It is probably not a stretch to believe that later writers also found these recipes unpalatable and chose not to perpetuate them.
One more week of “who would drink that?” and then we get to some more appealing recipes.