I’m sure you have been wondering how my mead making is getting on, thanks for asking. Here is a quick update.
It had stopped bubbling and started to settle. It’s not completely clear, it may clear in time or it may not, but it was time to rack it. This means I had to siphon off the liquid from the dregs.
This is one of the best parts of the process. To get the wine flowing from one container to another, I had to suck it through. I’m sure there are other ways to do it, but this gives me my first opportunity to taste it. A good rule of thumb is: if I don’t immediately spit it out, its OK.
I can report that I didn’t spit it out! It tasted quite dry, which is a good sign. It means that the sugar from the pears and all that honey has turned to alcohol – the main purpose of the exercise. The taste will improve with age and it might need racking again.
It has turned a beautiful colour, a pinkish gold. It is similar to the yellow of the autumn leaves that are everywhere at the moment.
The Anglo-Saxons had a word for his special colour. It is fealo or fallow, the shade of autumn leaves, gold weapons and turbulent winter waves. It also gives its name to the Fallow Deer.
For more about the word see this wonderful post by Eleanor Parker ( @ClerkofOxford ). It includes translations of texts about Anglo-Saxon Autumns, including one of my favourite lines:
Beam sceal on eorðan
leafum liþan; leomu gnornian.
A tree on the earth must
lose its leaves; the branches mourn.
It says everything there is to say about Autumn.
While writing this, a memory nagged at me. I went and checked the original text of the Battle of Maldon (together with a translation – I wish I could read Old English, but I think I am too old to learn it now.)
Here is the original:
Feoll þa to foldan fealohilte swurd
ne mihte he gehealdan heardne mece,
It comes in the final moments of Byrhtnoth’s life. He draws his sword, but is injured and:
Fell then to earth the fallow-hilted sword,
Nor could he hold the hard brand
Or wield his weapon.
It is the same word, fealo.
The colour of my mead, the colour of the autumn leaves that have been so spectacular this year, and the colour of Byrjtnoth’s sword hilt, at the moment that he fell.
Never let anyone tell you that this was the Dark Ages. It was full of Colour and Poetry.
And mourning for the end of life.