Honey wine also known as Mead, is touted to be the oldest alcoholic beverage on earth. It is inspiring that this ancient beverage of vikings is increasingly gaining a following among chefs in New England.
Some history on mead and how it came to be centuries ago, rainwater mixes with honey in the comb, wild yeast, which is naturally present in the air or carried in to the hive on the body of the worker bees, fermentation begins as the sweet honey and yeast combine with the rain-water, yielding “nectar of the viking gods”, if condition are right. This fermented concoction was one of the most highly prized by people of ancient times. It is thought that the secret to mead’s longevity in the way that it ferments and depending upon the yeast carried in by the bees meads can be seductive sweet the way honey wine lingers on the lips or detect as dry finish on the back of the tounge. It’s variety of styles form sweet, semi sweet and dry, or infused with local herbs, spices or fresh harvest fruits lends itself to recent experimentation among foodies. Recently New England has seen an explosion in meaderies opening, making cooking with fine meads easier then ever.
Many mead master enjoy delighting customers by pairings mead tastings with every course farm fresh cheeses, vegetable and grass fed charcuterie.
Coming form a local farm family with roots steep in the yearly deer hunting season, I have provided two dishes incorporating mead. We used two meads we located while driving through Connecticut a sweet apple infused mead in our Mead-Glazed Root Vegetables and then a hopped dry style mead which we used in the succulent mead-braised venison tender loin, (pork loin works in a pinch). As long as local mead-makers continue to create unique variations of this age-old beverage we will always use mead in preparing a our families fall harvest feast.
Enjoy these mead infused culinary specialties:
Mead Braised Venison Tender loin
1 Venison Tender loin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2–3 red skinned potatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
½ bottle dry hopped mead
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Pinch dried rosemary
In a Cast iron skillet, sear venison in olive oil until browned on all sides. Remove venison from the skillet and transfer to a small roasting pan. Add onion, carrot, potatoes and garlic to hot skillet and sauté until lightly browned. Add mead and herbs, bring to a boil, then pour over venison and seal tightly with foil. Cook for 2 hours in a 325°F oven, then remove foil and continue cooking for another 15–20 minutes until venison is slightly crisp on the outside. Rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with vegetables and top with cooking juices.
Mead Glazed Root Vegetables
2 large carrots
1 medium turnip
2 ounces butter
2 cups mead
1 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to your taste
Peel all the vegetables and cut into equal sized pieces. Melt butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet, add vegetables and stir to coat. Add mead and turn heat to low, stirring every minute or so, to cook evenly. Add honey and stir. Cook until all mead is evaporated and vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.