Peachy Mead

Peachy Mead

Just when I thought I was out, the mead keeps pulling me back in.

It was less than a month ago, now, that I bottled last year’s strawberry melomel. With Sarah’s invaluable help, there was a flurry of sanitizing and syphoning, filling, corking, cleaning, and trundling boxes of bottles down into the basement.

The strawberry mead came out just right: pale pink, with a definite and delicious fruit flavor, and a hint of oxidation that adds toffee complexity at the back end of every sip. It will need to age for a year or two. It’s still a little hot, alcoholically speaking. But I’m pleased. No doubt — one of the better meads I’ve made.

I’m Talking at the Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery — Tomorrow!

I feel like it’s been events and announcements and self-promotion all around for the past few weeks, and that I’ve been short changing you all on substantial writing about food.

That will change very soon.  Promise.

But in the meantime, if you’re in the Philadelphia area, come out and hear me speak tomorrow night at the Barren Hill Tavern and Brewery in Lafayette Hill — on Germantown pike, not too far from Chestnut Hill.  I’ll be reprising the talk that I gave at Science on Tap in April —  “Culturing Food: History, Health and Fermentation.”  But it will be a new audience, with new questions, and (I hope) some slightly spiffed up visuals.

At any rate, it’s part of an event called Pint of Science — a multi-city, International, three day mini-festival that happens in a bunch of cities.  The people who run the Philadelphia chapter are super sharp.  The other speakers sound fascinating.  And did I mention that there is also going to be beer?

Pint of Science - Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery

Here’s the relevant information:  the Barren Hill Tavern & Brewery is at 646 Germantown Pike; the event goes from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm; mine is the second talk of the night.  And though they seem to want you to RSVP here using Eventbrite, registration is in fact free.

Come on out, have a beer, and have a good time.  And if you do make it, say hello.  I want to meet you!

A Gem from the History of Fermentation at Sea

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term inspissated is an adjective meaning: brought to a thick consistence; thickened.

I mention it because in the 1777 volume, A Voyage Toward the South Pole, Captain James Cook speaks of having been given several barrels of inspissated wort — syrup of unfermented beer — to carry aboard the H. M. Bark Endeavour as it sailed to the South Pacific and around the world. It was thought, he writes, that the syrup would require to be fermented with yeast, in the usual way of making beer.

But things do not, apparently, always go as planned at sea. So active was this inspissated wort — because of the heat of the weather, and the agitation of the ship — that it reached the highest state of fermentation all on its own, and evaded all our endeavours to stop it.

If this juice could be kept from fermenting, Cook writes, it certainly would be a most valuable article at sea. But alas. It was not to be.

Those same shipboard conditions that proved so beneficial to the aging of Madeira wine made this particular fermentation experiment a spectacular, perhaps explosive, failure.

And the sailors — poor sailors — were left with a sticky, beery mess to clean.

Melomel; or, Strawberries Part I

Melomel; or, Strawberries Part I

It wasn’t my plan to start a new mead this past week. On Monday, I thought to myself that this summer might be a good time to test the waters of melomel, fruit mead, a style that I had never attempted before. But later in the summer would be better, I thought, when blackberries were ready, or even once pears had come into their bloom. Definitely, there should be melomel sometime this season. But definitely, that sometime was not now.

And then there were strawberries — buckets and buckets of the best strawberries in the greater Philadelphia area, ripe almost to bursting, at a price that was far too good to be refused.