My search for mead recipes also unearthed a handful of honeyed ale recipes, called braggots. According to WikiBrew a braggot is a form of mead which gets its fermentable sugars both from honey and from barley malt, typically between 30 to 50%. In history the definition of a braggot as a mead is not so clear. The 14th century recipe from Curye on Inglysch uses ale from grains used twice (a second run, which would be weaker and benefit from the extra honey sugars). The Customs of London, The Haven of Health and The Jewel House of Art and Nature recipes also use ale as the base of the recipe. The Haven of Health adds barm at the end for secondary fermentation and The Jewell House of Art and Nature recommends strong new ale, which could re-ferment through the addition of extra sugars, i.e. the honey.
As these recipes request ale and not wort (before fermentation), even though secondary fermentation is often part of the process, it seems historic braggot was most often a back sweetened spiced ale instead of a malted mead. The abundant use of spices similar to spiced wine, like pepper, cloves, mace, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon, also reminds one of hippocras, a spiced and sweetened wine.
Curye on Inglysch, 14th century. Part V Goud Kokery, MS Royal 17. A.
8 Ad faciendum brakott.
Take xiiii galouns of good fyn ale that the grout therof be twies meischid, & put it into a stonen vessel. & lete it sonde iii daies or iiii, til it be stale. Afterward take a quart of fyne wort, half a quart of lyf hony; & sette it ouer the fier, & lete it sethe, & skyme it wel til it be cleer. & put therto a penyworth of poudir of peper & i penyworth of poudir of clowis, & sethe hem wel togidere til it boile. Take it doun & lete it kele, & poure out the clere thereof into the forseid vessel, & the groundis thereof put it into a bagge, into the porseid pot, & stoppe it wel with a lynnen clooth that noon eir come out; & put thereto newe berm, & stoppe it iii dayes or iiii eer thou drinke thereof. Put aqua ardente it among.
8 To make braggot.
Take 14 gallons of good fine ale that the wort thereof be twice used, & put it into a stone vessel. & let it stand 3 days or 4, until it is stale. Afterwards take a quart of fine wort, half a quart of live honey; & set it over the fire, & let it simmer, & skim well until it is clear. & put thereto a pennyworth of powder of pepper, & 1 pennyworth of powder of cloves, & simmer it well together until it boils. Take it down, & let it cool, & pour out the clear [liquid] thereof [decant] into the previously mentioned vessel [stone vessel], & the settlement thereof into a bag, into the mentioned pot [stone vessel], & close it well with a linen cloth that no air comes out; & put thereto new berm, & close it 3 days or 4 before you drink of it. Add aqua ardente to it.
The Customs of London, otherwise called Arnold’s Chronicle, 1503
Take a pott of good ale and put therto a porcion of hony and peper in this maner, when thou hast good ale let it stone in a pot ij. Daies and thā drawe out a quarte or a potell of that ale and put to the hony and set it ouer the fire and lete it seethe well and take it of the fire and scinne it clene and than put thertoo the peper and thē set hē on the fire and lete hem boyle wel togedur with esy fir; but peper take iiij. gallons of good ale a pynte of fyn tried hony and the mountenaunce off saucer full of poud’ of pepper, &ct.
The Haven of Health. Chiefely gathered for the comfort of Students, and consequently of all those that have a care of their health. By Thomas Coghan, 1584.
Chap.238 To make Bragget.
Take three of foure galons of good Ale or more, as you please, two dayes or three after it is clensed, and put it into a pot by itselfe, then draw forth a pottle thereof, and put to it a quart of good English Hony, and set them over the fire in a vessell, and let them boyle faire and softly, and alwayes as any froth ariseth, skumme it away and so clarifie it, and when it is well clarified, take it off the fire, and let it coole, and put thereto of Pepper a pennyworth, Cloves, Mace, Ginger, Nutmegs, Cniamon, of each two pennyworth beaten to powder, stir them well together, and set them over the fire to boyle againe a while, then being milke warme, put it to the rest, and stirre all together, and let it stande two or three daies, and put barme upon it, and drink it at your pleasure.
Jewell House of Art and Nature by Hugh Platt, 1594.
74 The making of a Bragget, which is manie times mistaken for a Muskadell by the simple sort of people. Put one part of smal Alewoort that is blood warm with sone part of clarified Honie according to the maner set downe num.75 but put no Cloves therein in the clarifying. For the making of one Hogesheade of this Bragget which is aboute 63. gallons, you must take nine Gallons of this clarified Honie, and 54. gallons of strong new ale: when your clarified hony hath stood one day, then mingle the same with your newe Ale in a Hogshead, first filling your Hogshead halfe full before put in your honie, and then hang this aromaticall cōposition following in a long slender bag in the midst of the vessell vz. of Cinamon three ounces, ginger three ounces, greins 3. ounces, colianders one ounce, cloves one ounce, nutmegs oce ounce, long pepper halfe an ounce, Cardamomum one ounce and a halfe, liquerice one ounce, then fil up the vessell almost full with the rest of the new ale (yet some comment rather the putting in of the spices sonsistedly [?] then in a bag) bee sure to have foure of five gallons or more of the same newe ale, to fill up the hogshead as it purgeth over continuallie. There is a lesser hole neere the bung hole in beere hogsheads, which must stande open whilest it purgeth, you must also be carefull in the beginning to give some little vent to the hogshead whilst it worketh: in three or foure moneths, it will be readie to drinke. You must have a hazell sticke of the bignesse of a good cudgell, so great as may well enter in at the round bung-hole, and when you hogshead is about three quarters full, put in this stick, being sawed croswise at the end about one cubite in length, (the Vintners call it their parrelling staffe) as the aptest toole for this purpose. Beat with the said staffe the new ale and the honie togither a good prettie while, & when you have finished this agitation, fill up the vessel with the rest, and let it purge as before. If you finde your muscadell too thicke, after it hath stood 3. or 4. monethes, you may take a cane or pipe, made of Tinne plates, that will reach into the midst of the hogshead or somewhat more, stop the ende thereof and make some holes in the sides, and with a funnell you may poure more new ale into the Cane, and so make it thinner. This Cane is an apt instrument to conveie any liquor or compostition into a vessell of wine without troubling of the same, or turning uppe the lees, wherby you may draw the same fine presently.
- — The Customs of London, otherwise called Arnold’s Chronicle, 1503. https://books.google.com/books?id=BfxBAAAAYAAJ&dq=customs+of+london+otherwise+called+arnold%27s+chronicle&source=gbs_navlinks_s
- Coghan, Thomas. The Haven of Health. 1584. https://ia800500.us.archive.org/22/items/havenofhealthchi00coga/havenofhealthchi00coga.pdf
- Hieatt, Constance B. & Butler, Sharon (ed). Curye on Inglysch, English culinary manuscripts of the 14th century (including Forme of Cury). Early English Text Society. London: Oxford University Press, 1985.
- Platt, Hugh. Jewell House of Art and Nature, 1594. http://eebo.chadwyck.com/