Need for Mead

The ancient beverage sees a revival in Virginia.

Mead, also known as honey wine, is arguably the oldest alcoholic beverage on earth–and is inspiring a steady following among foodies in Virginia.

“When rainwater mixes with honey in the comb, wild yeast, which is naturally present in the air, will ferment it,” said Kimberly Pugh, co-owner and winemaker of Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery in Nellysford, Virginia. “Honey was one of the things people gathered in ancient times.” The secret to mead’s longevity is the seductive way honey wine lingers on the lips–and its versatility: Mead’s personality can be very sweet or very dry. Its alcohol content ranges from 8–18% abv. Chefs love to incorporate mead in their menus because it’s never overpowering.

Joshua Smith, executive chef at Local Roots Restaurant delights his Roanoke-based customers by pairing mead tastings with every course on his farm-to-table menu. Natasha Shishkevish, chef-owner of Natasha’s Market Café in Floyd, Virginia offers two signature dishes incorporating mead. She uses sweet mead in her vitamin-rich “Mead-Glazed Root Vegetables” and then a dry mead in her succulent “Mead-Braised Pork.” As long as Virginia meadmakers continue to create unique variations of an age-old recipe, it will always be regarded as one honey of a wine.

Try these deliciously simple mead-infused recipes:

Mead Braised Pork
Courtesy of Natasha Shishkevish, chef-owner of Natasha's Market Cafe

2–3 pork shoulders
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2–3 red skinned potatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
½ bottle dry mead
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Pinch dried rosemary

In a skillet, sear pork in olive oil until browned on all sides. Remove pork from skillet and transfer to a small roasting pan. Add onion, carrot, potatoes and garlic to hot skillet and sauté until lightly browned. Add mead and herbs, bring to a boil, then pour over pork and seal tightly with foil. Cook for 2 hours in a 325°F oven, then remove foil and continue cooking for another 15–20 minutes until pork is slightly crisp on the outside. Rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with vegetables and top with cooking juices.

Mead Glazed Root Vegetables
Courtesy of Natasha Shishkevish, chef-owner of Natasha's Market Cafe

2 large carrots
1 rutabega
1 medium turnip (golden turnip if available)
1 parsnip
2 ounces butter
2 cups mead
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel vegetables and cut into equal sized pieces (to cook evenly). Melt butter in a 9-inch skillet, add vegetables and stir to coat. Add mead and turn heat to low, stirring every few minutes to cook evenly. Add honey and stir. Cook until all mead is evaporated and vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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