Archive for the Yule Category

Yule and Mead Fail

Posted in Mead, Yule with tags , on December 27, 2012 by theredlass

*sigh* Sometimes you an do everything right and still have something turn out like crap.

So everyone was of course really excited about the mead bottling. We really busted out butts on this so we did it right off the bat once everyone had arrived. We had a whole assembly line of sanitizing, pumping, corking and labeling going and then we got to sample each batch.

Have you ever drunk a mouthfull of vinegar before?

Now all hope may not yet be lost to us. We did take our sample from the last inch of the bottle so it may just be super yeasty and sour. But on the whole there is a lot of worry floating around as to if all our time and money was wasted. Now of course when it comes to something like this I try not to think of it as a waste but rather as a learning experience, which this one was. But when you have 8 people who dropped some serious money into making 6 gallons of mead your thoughts are not on the silver lining.

It’s more that the mead was terribly alcoholic (not a bad thing) and very very SOUR! Despite adding almost 5 extra gallons of honey to the original batch (which tasted AMAZING at the half way point) all our fruit and spices seemed to do was weaken the sweet flavor in favor of a rather unpleasant sour fruit taste.

But not all hope is lost! After rereading all the stuff I used the first time I made mead, I realized 2 very important steps we had failed to go over.
Add Fruit First! When I made my first big batch of mead, I added the fruit to the first fermentation. Apparently, this gives the yeast a more well balanced diet AND allows for the flavors to be more intense and mature even if you filter the fruit/spices out during secondary ferment.

It’s Called Honey Wine for a Reason! It completely skipped my mind that when we bottled our big batch, we sweetened the HELL out of it as we went along. If I had remembered that, we should have added honey to the jugs and shaken them up really well before we bottled which would have gone a long way towards helping the flavor.

So we are going to try and sweeten our bottled med before drinking it and see if that helps at all. On the plus side, I how have 3, 1 gallon carboys, which I can use to further my experimentation. I’m thinking on a recipe with elderberry (a melomel) and something with cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and anise (a metheglin) I also want to make sure and do another jug of the “Snapdragon” mead (assuming it tastes better all sweetened) for Ren Fair. I promised my friends a taste of it and the only way I will have enough to go around is if I make a gallon or two! I’d also like to fiddle around with citrus flavors. I can do 2 gallons at a shot, 3 if I don’t mind buying another carboy (which I don’t). Also I found a really great local supplier with people who are more than happy to provide advise alongside supplies.

Also, for reference, we got about 4, 750 ml bottles out of every carboy, this with leaving an 1-1 1/2 inches of the dregs (yeast and fruit) at the bottom.

Other than that, Yule went down rather well. We kept things fairly informal and did six rounds of toasting and drinking while the food passed around. As always I leave my couch and floor open to anyone who feels too tipsy to drive home. We did a gift exchange and tarot readings and just generally had a really nice night!

Yuletide Season

Posted in Experience, Fun and interesting, History, Life, Yule with tags , on November 22, 2011 by theredlass

Normally, I don’t feel the ‘Christmas season’ starts until after Thanksgiving is over. We do the whole meal, have our little carbo-overload nap, and then make rice krispies while listening to Christmas music and setting up out gigantic 7ftx4ft tree.

Well this year we decided to do things a little differently. I am not Christan, so to be fair, celebrating the ‘Christmas’ season is a bit out of context for me. Laura is Agnostic so she doesn’t believe in Jesus as the son of God.We had a talk about whether or not we even wanted to celebrate this year at all. So we decided instead to do things our way. This year, instead of Christmas we will be doing more of a Yule tide things.

Where as most of the neopagan holidays take their names from the Celts, Yule is originally a Germanic/Norse festival. It is the midway point of winter (winter solstice) and cause for great celebration as the cold is almost over. It was a time of heavy livestock sacrifice so that the gods might be appeased and protect their houses and men for the rest of the winter. This was a wild time, when many people were open to dangers from sickness to starvation and frostbite and wildlife. Yule is the longest night of the year, and rituals must be observed to keep people safe in their villages. The celebration typically lasted for 12 days, or as long as the Yule log burned in the hearth.

For the Celts, this holiday marked the point when the sun starts to fight against the cold, staying a little longer in the sky every day thereafter. The celebration included worshiping the signs of life that maintained during this frigid time of year. Druids would take a golden sickle and, in a great procession, lead the village out to a tree which contained mistletoe, a plant considered sacred to the Celts for its symbolic and medicinal properties. The Druids would cut down the mistletoe and then bring it inside, reminding the people that life continued even in the depths of winter and that the verdant green of the land would return.

For a people who were largely dependent upon their crops, the return of the sun was of utmost importance. A long winter and late spring meant less time to plough and plant and a weaker harvest, which brought many dangers to the populace. Not to mention that people were trapped in their holdings for longer and food supplies ran low. It was imperative that the seasons progressed and were appreciated in their turn.

That said, the real point of Yule is understanding just how strenuous life was back then. There were no weekends or vacations. You did not get days off save for festivals. Every day there was work to be done, not just for wealth, but for survival. You were constantly harvesting, repairing, cooking, drying, sewing, cleaning…the list goes on and on. Winter however was a time of rest and respite, when people did not have to farm or do many outdoor chores, so there was the opportunity to sit inside and be together as a family or tribe. These dark months could be very bleak and depressing, so it was all the more important to remind people of the coming sun and light returning to the world.

So Laura and I have planned on doing a few different things to celebrate this holiday according to our tastes and faith. We’ll still be doing the secular holiday with the family, exchanging gifts and going to Clifton Mills like we do every year. But we’ll be skipping the obligatory Catholic mass (don’t know why we did it in the first place), skipping the nativity scene and all the usual religious hooplah that clings to this time of year.

1) Mead Brewing- Mead was considered a sacred drink in ancient times. It was said to inspire poetry, art, prophecy, bravery and fertility in it’s drinkers and was shared in liberal amounts during festivals. So we are going to try to make this a project during the month of December. Of course the mead won’t be ready by Yule, but we will let it shelve through the year once it’s brewed and (as well as continuing to make mead) we will be able to give out bottles next year as gifts to friends and family.

2) Yule Tree- while the Yule log is traditionally burned through out the feast, it’s said that Germanic tribes were the first to bring trees inside and decorate them. We bought a new tree this year, which I will be blessing soon, and we are going to invite friends to make decorations with wishes for themselves and their family for the year forthcoming. We will hang these on the tree after the blessing in hopes of them coming true.

3) Decorating Pagan-this is going to be rather difficult with all the religious icons around, but I’m hoping to replace some of that in our house with Norse & Celtic regalia. We bought a lovely mistletoe for our home (traditionally a sacred plant which reminded people of the virility and endurance of nature through out the cold as well as serving as a fertility charm). Making a pagan star for a tree topper, creating a wreath for the house, a lot of this is going to have to be done by hand. One thing I would like to find is a series of statues/one statue which depicts Celts/ Nords feasting. I feel it would be more an appropriate replacement for the Nativity given the context.

Any other ideas out there from fellow Pagans?