Mede in the Edo Period in Japan

Dear Mead Lovers,

Here is a story about the knowledge of Mead in the Edo Period of Japan.

During a recent research an essay was found in the Archives of Western Learning in the city of Tsuyama in Western Japan. One of the doctors working for the local feudal lord, Yoan Udagawa (1798-1846), had studied European medicine and even introduced coffee to Japan. He has written the following report about Mead, which he called MEDE:

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"Mede" is an alcoholic drink made from honey fermented in water. In the cold areas of Northern Europe, where grapes can not grow, it is used as a daily drink instead of wine and also used as a medicine. If you use good quality honey it tastes good and sweet.

Here is the main recipie to make mead: 1 pound of honey, 2 pounds of water (1 pound = 373.25 grams). You dissolve the honey in water and boil it slowly for some time. While you take off the foam and scum the water contents is reduced and if an egg put in the mixture keeps floating you take the pot off the fire. Filter it trough a piece of cloth into a wooden bucket and cover it with a cotton cloth to keep off dirt. Keep the bucket close to a warm place, like the kitchen stove or a hearth and let it ferment for 40 days. When the foam gets less you close the container and keep it in a cellar. If you made it in winter, it will be ready in February of the next year.

It is best to use a new wooden bucket, which you should wash out with boiling water for three or four times to take off the wooden smell and then wash it one more time with wine. When this drink is kept for a long time the tast of honey becomes lost and it turns into a high-quality wine taste.

If you have to prepare it for quick use you can use honey diluted in water without fermentation. This is also called MEDE. You can also use the juice of rasberries or mulberries and let it ferment to make a tasteful mead.

There is also another process of making mead:

Use 64 ounces of water and an appropriate amount of honey. (1 ounce = 31.1grams). Put the honey in water and stir and when an egg keeps floating in the mixture add the grated peel of 3 lemons, let it boil and take off the foam. After taking it off the fire add 3 sliced lemons, put the liquid in a clean bucket and keep it in a warm place for fermentation. Then take off the foam again and filter it into a small container. When there are no more bubbles and foam, close the container firmly and keep it for three days, then it is ready to drink. You can also add some cloves or nutmeg, about half an ounce of each powdered, kept in a small bag and immersed in the mead to give it a pleasant smell.

The main effects of MEDE:

It is good for lung infections, cough, asthma and other ailments of the lungs. It also helps keep the heart and stomach in good condition. People with a tendency to a hot blood should drink a lot to produce gall for dissipating the heat. It is also good for the elderly and people with a poor circulation, who feel cold all the time. If young people and children drink too much of it, it will be harmful."

I wonder where Doctor Udagawa got this information. Maybe he had a chance to study the famous "De Materia Medica", written about 2000 years ago by Dioskurides, a doctor of the Roman army, where many forms of MEDE are introduced.

Dr. med. Gabi Greve
September 2003

Vicky Rowe
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