Honey Holidays

Well, no soup-making for me this week as we're on holidays in west Co Cork. The spouse, younger offspring and I are enjoying a break on Heir Island. The weather has been glorious so far, but is due to change tomorrow. Walking around the island in the evenings, we are inhaling the heady scent of wild honeysuckle.

The house we're staying in has piles of books around the place, one of which is C J J Berry's First Steps in Winemaking. This was first published in 1982, shortly before the spouse and I bought our own copy and began our own venture into making country wines. There was ample space in the hot press in the house where we were living at the time, and we duly filled it with demi-johns of rose petal, clove and ginger, and other wines. One wine we definitely didnt' get around to making was "bees" wine. Berry explains it thus:

"You used to stand it in the window, and the bees used to go up and down in the liquid ... it made quite a pleasant drink." When you hear someone saying this they are quite certainly talking about that old novelty, "Bees Wine", otherwise known as Palestinian or Californian Bees or Balm of Gilead. Actually the "bees" are merely a certain type of yeast (or rather a mixture of yeasts and bacteria) which has clumping properties -- hence its name, Saccharomyces Pryiformis
 His book has a recipe for honeysuckle wine, which you make in July (he warns that the flowers are not poisonous, but the berries are). The spouse and I didn't make honeysuckle wine, but we did make mead using one of Berry's three mead recipes. Here it is:

  • English honey (2k, 4lb) (I presume you can use other nationalities')
  • Orange
  • Lemon
  • Water (4.5 l, 1 gallon)
  • Yeast and nutrient
  • Pectic enzyme
Bee above honeysuckle, Heir Island, July 2011

Put the honey into the water and bring to the boil, then pour into a bucket and allow to cool. Add the juice from the orange and lemon, and the yeast ... and nutrient.
N.B.--It is most important to add a good nutrient, since the honey is deficient in essential minerals. Pour into fermentation vessel and fit air-lock. Allow to ferment to completion -- this is liable to take much longer than with most country wines -- and rack when no further bubbles are passing. Mead should preferably be matured for at least a year after this, but one needs to be very strong-willed to follow this advice!

Another book I am dipping into while on holiday is an uncorrected bound proof of John Banville's Shroud. In a scene set in Turin, the narrator describes his surroundings as follows:
With a cold eye I took in what the guidebooks would call the panorama: the wedding-cake facades, the bronze horseman unsheathing his sword, the famed twin churches down at the far end of the square, all bathed in a honeyed, sunlit haze. 

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