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Viking mead in Iceland 1000 years ago? Milk mead?

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kseller

NewBee
Registered Member
Jul 16, 2007
6
0
0
Thanks so much, JayH! Such great help! I was just going to troll randomly through books about plants growing in Iceland and hope that I stumbled onto something useable. Between the bog myrtle and the heather and yarrow, you guys have probably saved me a ridiculous amount of research time. Thank you!

To answer your question, they would have had to import the honey from the continent, just as they did most luxury items. But the family I'm writing about was wealthy enough that I think they would have had some mead at a wedding.

Thanks again!

K-
 

TimT

NewBee
Registered Member
May 3, 2013
33
0
0
Reviving an old thread... but there are a couple of ways of brewing with milk.

The first is to use it as a kind of unfermentable sweetener in your brew - specifically, lactose is a sugar that yeast can't ferment. So it can often be used this way in beers, though these days brewers will often not bother doing anything with milk and just buy lactose straight from a brew shop. I use milk in my beers, in the form of whey, which I get from cheesemaking - it's the green liquid that separates from the fatty curds. It's a good ingredient and definitely worth throwing in brews. You could use it as a sweetener, also, in a light dry mead.

The second is to use it in a recipe like a butter beer, which *is* a kind of egg nog made with a sweet beer rather than a fortified wine. The booze is heated over the stove and egg yolks are whisked in with cream. Spices are added. You could do the same with mead to make a sweet dessert or breakfast treat.

The third: the English used to make syllabub, apparently, by directly milking over the top of a barrel of cider! The acidity in the cider caused the cream to curdle: an instant, delightful dessert. Again, you could do the same with mead - and indeed most syllabub recipes are not that precise about what alcohol should be used to cause the cream to curdle.

Fourthly, there are various other ways of fermenting milk; kefir, for instance, is a fermented milk drink that has both bacteria and yeast in it. Villi (from Finland) is another. Skyr probably often had yeast in it as well. Whether the Icelanders sweetened their skyr with mead or honey.... who knows? I don't.

That's all I know! Milk mead sounds a fun project though.
 

loveofrose

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
Nov 9, 2012
2,581
19
38
Texas
Reviving an old thread... but there are a couple of ways of brewing with milk.

The first is to use it as a kind of unfermentable sweetener in your brew - specifically, lactose is a sugar that yeast can't ferment. So it can often be used this way in beers, though these days brewers will often not bother doing anything with milk and just buy lactose straight from a brew shop. I use milk in my beers, in the form of whey, which I get from cheesemaking - it's the green liquid that separates from the fatty curds. It's a good ingredient and definitely worth throwing in brews. You could use it as a sweetener, also, in a light dry mead.

The second is to use it in a recipe like a butter beer, which *is* a kind of egg nog made with a sweet beer rather than a fortified wine. The booze is heated over the stove and egg yolks are whisked in with cream. Spices are added. You could do the same with mead to make a sweet dessert or breakfast treat.

The third: the English used to make syllabub, apparently, by directly milking over the top of a barrel of cider! The acidity in the cider caused the cream to curdle: an instant, delightful dessert. Again, you could do the same with mead - and indeed most syllabub recipes are not that precise about what alcohol should be used to cause the cream to curdle.

Fourthly, there are various other ways of fermenting milk; kefir, for instance, is a fermented milk drink that has both bacteria and yeast in it. Villi (from Finland) is another. Skyr probably often had yeast in it as well. Whether the Icelanders sweetened their skyr with mead or honey.... who knows? I don't.

That's all I know! Milk mead sounds a fun project though.

Also, look up koumiss. There are also mead-koumiss hybrids that are supposedly quite tasty.


Better brewing through science!
 

TimT

NewBee
Registered Member
May 3, 2013
33
0
0
Of all those possibilities I think the first and the third sound most likely; the second one is possible too. The existence of combined bacterial-yeast milk cultures - skyr, koumiss, vili - are probably a bit of a red herring (herrings? wait, when did we start talking about fish?), since it would have been weird using them as a starter for another complicated ferment (mead).
 

icedmetal

NewBee
Registered Member
Nov 16, 2009
794
1
0
Everett WA
So far "milk mead", or Lactomel, as it's called around these parts, certainly has made for an interesting project or two. I've been keeping track though, and I've still to come across a single reference to someone enjoying the stuff in the last decade. Key word there is enjoying; I've made it and had it, others on this board have done the same, none of us particularly enjoyed it. Last time I tried mine I backsweetened it in hopes of making it at least somewhat drinkable. The jury is still out...

Some preacher in Alaska made an impression on an amateurish author who threw a few anecdotes into a book, and some years later there's fellows trying to emulate something they've never had, only read about in a book. It's enough to make me wax philosophical. I'll save you all the screen space :)
 

TimT

NewBee
Registered Member
May 3, 2013
33
0
0
Looking up lactomel just now I see some brewers add an enzyme to break down the lactose into fermentable sugars. I think that's weird and unecessary. Lactose is good in brews precisely because it does not ferment and adds a special sweetness to the final product. Adding milk to meads would generally make the texture a bit thicker and more creamy - I think this could work well in some well-balanced meads where the spiciness is not too overwhelming, especially dessert meads. Also, when you separate curds from whey the whey will have a kind of slight bitter-sourness too, from the lactic acid - how much depends just how long the whey has been curdling for. This bitter-sour acidity could be quite a welcome addition to mead, too.

It's definitely worth using whey in brews, especially if like me you make cheese and end up with a lot of leftover whey. Saves you from throwing it all out :)

Meads that might work using whey: a braggot (to give the braggot a creamy complexity and a foamy head, and to add to the sugary complexity: malt from the barley, sucrose, glucose and fructose from the honey, and lactose from the whey). A bochet: (think of the caramel and toffee flavours of the burnt honey matching up with the mild sweetness of the whey). It would provide a welcome sweetness in spicy meads which are otherwise quite light and dry, too, I think.
 

icedmetal

NewBee
Registered Member
Nov 16, 2009
794
1
0
Everett WA
Adding milk to meads generally results in an awful mess. But please do feel free to try it out and report back results. I'd love to see a proven tasty recipe using whey instead of water.
 

bernardsmith

Got Mead? Patron
GotMead Patron
Sep 1, 2013
1,611
29
48
Saratoga Springs , NY
Adding milk to meads generally results in an awful mess. But please do feel free to try it out and report back results. I'd love to see a proven tasty recipe using whey instead of water.

I started a lactomel on July 20 but used lactose free milk. No mess but the mead tastes very fruity. I used Premier Cuvee Yeast and I wonder if that may be the source of the esters. I made a koumis some months ago (fermented milk wine - made from cow milk (again, lactose free) rather than the more traditional mare's milk) and used a different yeast (Can't locate my notes for this but it may have been QA23) and there was no fruitiness. Certainly neither are likely to be as drinkable as T'ej or (my favorite) a mead hopped with Cascade, Citra and Centennial hops.
I want to try one more experiment using regular milk - to see if how that differs .
 

Andrius

NewBee
Registered Member
Sep 29, 2014
2
0
0
Hi All,

I think I'll be reviving this thread the third time. I was very amused to see this discussion as I'm very interested in milk mead myself. A couple of years ago I received a recipe from a fried who was working with archives. This recipe dates back to 1790 and was found in Minsk archives (current Belorussia, Lithuania in 1790). And it is oldest full recipe in these parts, that I know of. It is called "white mead" and is made with milk. So basically I'm sure that such mead can be done and its history might be older than XVIII c. for sure. I've done mead following this recipe and got awsome results! I would bother you with original recipe as the weights and measures there were in "stones" and "buckets", but it goes like this:
1 part honey
5 parts water
Boil it, skim off the foam. Take it from fire, add cold water and then milk. (the water is still warm!) Cool it and add yeast.
So I followed this recipe and at first I got total mess. There were viscuous flakes floting in the wort, taste was awful and I was about pouring everything down the drain. Now I'm glad that I didn't. During fermentation, the flaky parts settled down, I was able to pour the mead from them. After fermentation, it was still unpleasant and untasty thing... Still I kept faith in the old recipe and put it of for a time. And after year's time I got one of the best drinks ever. It wasn't mead, it wasn't sweet, it wasn't smelling of honey, but it had some character of mead and milk added some nutty flavours to the drink. So all in all - you can mix milk and honey! (what ever your past experiencies are) :). What you should be careful about are the sediments during fermentation and maturation. They must be filtered as they add all the bad tastes to the drink.
On another note, I'm just fermenting a heather mead I made a month ago. Heather is traditionally added in beer brewing in our parts, so I've tried it as well. The result was good - I've made rather sweet (OG 1120) wort and though I don't know the result now, I expect the best.

So feel free to try any of the suggestion in this topic, I think that they are all valid :)
 

TimT

NewBee
Registered Member
May 3, 2013
33
0
0
Fascinating. Did you use skim milk? Did you boil the milk to pasteurise or just go with an unopened packet of pasteurised milk? What was your milk + honey + water ratio? In fact it sounds like the fat in the milk has sort of helped to clarify the drink - separating out as the mead acidifies during fermentation, and attracting other sediments to it before dropping out of suspension.

I'm still sticking with the theory that best results will be obtained from adding whey - but that's partly because I think of all those delicious cheese curds that you could have got out of the milk before adding it to the rest of the mead :) Getting the most value out of the milk! It's economics, innit!
 

Sparked_Tiger

Worker Bee
Registered Member
May 3, 2021
48
24
8
USA
This guy started his You Tube channel last year while he was on lockdown. He goes through historic foods and beverages their history and replicates them as best he can since some periods did not do good recipe recording, some ingredients are extremely hard to find, too expensive or just not available in the US. This is a mead from around the Vikings of the 12th and 13th centuries. I like his show.

 
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