Mead from Quince Honey

Building on last week’s recipe.

The recipe for last week was taken from a 1518 version of Dioscorides because the 1516 that I have been using was less clear on the quince recipes. But the 1518 left the mead made from the quinces soaked in honey (for a year) without any instructions.

In this, the 1516 edition helps us. But first a digression.

Multiple editions and versions of texts provide both opportunity and danger for the researcher.

The primary danger is mis-attribution and missing data. I have multiple times seen a quote assigned from a later edition of a text assigned to the earliest publication date of that text, presumable because the later edition was readily available while the earlier was not. Unfortunately, since texts were routinely changed with each edition, this practice is risky at best, and often ends up giving a wrong date to material. The corollary to this assumption of consistency between editions is information that changes is missed when only one edition is reviewed.

There are also benefits of multiple editions. We can see how information changes over time. Different editions or translations may provide insight. Like this case, where the 1516 provides a piece missing from the 1518 that then gives a complete recipe.

1516 Baptista/Barolo Book V Vinum Hydromelon DCCCLXII

Et quod Hydromelon appellatur: ex Melomelite supradicto singitur. Duabus partibus aquae decoctae insolate que sub ortum caniculae. Huius quoque natura eadem est.

TRANSLATION (Laura Angotti): And that which is called Hydromelon. From the Melomel above made. Two parts water boiled and put in the sun under the rising of the dog star. Of this nature is the same.

The modern mead maker, seeing the term melomel, might be confused, as a melomel under current usage is a mead made with fruit. But this general use is relatively modern, here I think it means literally the honey made from macerating the fruit in honey, as in last week’s recipe.

Putting these together we have a more complete recipe, Quinces, soaked in honey for a year, then mixed 1:2 with water to make mead.


I made it. The final recipe used quince:honey proportion instructions from yet another edition of Dioscorides (the complete story for another time). The quinces in the honey added enough water that there was some fermentation in the honey, but no significant off flavors. I added water 2:1 based on the original volume of the honey. The final flavor had strong quince sharpness, it also had some slightly off flavors, probably derived from the wild fermentation that took place in the honey. While this would have been a very good historical method to preserved the quince flavor for use outside of the quince season, its uncertainties and timing are perhaps overly uncertain and complex for the modern day.

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