he Closet of Sir Kenelme Digbie Opened is a 1669 cookbook featuring no fewer than 24 recipes for mead and a following 24 for spiced-mead. Only after these comes 30 main dishes. Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665) was gentry and his family Catholic in Protestant England. His father, Sir Everard, was executed in 1606 for his part in the Gunpowder Plot. Sir Kenelme was a scientist and a traveller but is best known for his collection of recipes. Here are some excerpts:
Take to every three Gallons of water, one Gallon of honey and set the water over the fire, and let the honey melt, before the water be too hot; then put in a New-laid-egg, and feel with your hand; if it comes half way the water, it is strong enough; Then put into it these Herbs, Thyme, Sweet-marjoram, Winter-savoury, Sweet-bryar, and Bay-leaves, in all a good great handful; which a proportion for ten Gallons; Then with a quick-fire boil it very fast half an hour, and no longer; and then take it from the fire, and let it cool in two or three woodden vessels; and let it stand without stirring twenty four hours. Then softly drain it out, leaving all the dregs behind. Put the clear into your vessel; and if you like any spice, take Ginger, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Mace and Cloves, and bruise them a little, and put them in a bag, and let them hang in your vessel. Before you put your Meath into the vessel, try if it will bear an Egg as broad as a peny; if it do, then it is very well; and if it be made with the best White-honey, it usually is just so. But if it should prove too strong, that it bears the Egge broader; then boil a little more honey and water very small, and put to it, when it is cold: and then put it into the vessel. It is best to be made at Michaelmas, and not drunk of till Lent.
Take a pound of the best Currants clean picked, and pour upon them in a deep straight mouthed earthen vessel six pounds or pints of hot water, in which you have dissolved three spoonfuls of the purest and newest Ale-yest. Stop it very close till it ferment, then give such vent as is necessary, and keep it warm for about three days, it will work and ferment. Taste it after two days, to see if it be grown to your liking. As soon as you find it so, let it run through a strainer, to leave behind all the exhausted currants and the yest, and so bottle it up. It will be exceeding quick and pleasant, and is admirable good to cool the Liver, and cleanse the blood. It will be ready to drink in five or six days after it is bottled; And you may drink safely large draughts of it.
Make a good ftrong broth of Veal and Mutton; then take out the meat, and put in a good Capon or Pullet: but firft, if it be very fat, parboil it a little to take away the Oylenefs of it, and then put it into the broth; and when it hath boiled a little therein, put in fome grated bread, a bundle of fweet herbs, two of three blades of Mace, and a peeled Onion. When it is ready to be difhed up, take the yolks of fix Eggs, beat them very well with two of three fpoonfuls of Whitewine. Then take the Capon out of the broth, and thicken it up with the Eggs, and fo difh it up with the Capon, and toftes of Whitebread or flices, which you pleafe; and have ready boiled the Marror of two or three bones with fome render boiled white Endive, and ftrew it over the Capon.