About honey meads

Honey for centuries was one of the almost indisdpensable natural product in a household. It was used to sweeten dishes, to bake cakes – in particular gingerbread, and even to preserve food. Honey was also appreciated in production of alcoholic beverages as mead and honey beer that once were quite popular.  

The tradition of mead production goes back in Poland to the pagan times. However, first records comes from the biography of of St. Otton, in which it was said that Pomeranian tribes favoured honey mead over wine. It was no surprise as Polish people simply could not make wine to the changeable climate, not suitable for growing vine. 

Probably first meads had very different flavour from those made today. Today preferred sweeter, in the past mead was more of a dry beverage. Its taste was not always appreciated and that is why monks coming to Polish land form southern Europe took over the the work of producing honey mead. It was extremely profitable and and the same time raising the standard of beverages. Soon enough, monks developed taste for honey mead, favouring them over southern wines. Today, the close connection of mead production with monasteries is indicated by their names, for instance ‘Kapucynski’ or ‘Bernardynski’

At first, the process of natural yeast cultures fermentation was used to produce mead and the concentration of alcohol reached up to 10%. Consequently, it was frequently served while eating meals as it was consummated as juice. Only when hot honey wort and noble variety of yeasts were employed in the production process the quality of the beverage increased. As time passed, other ingredients were added such as spices, fruit juce. And it all caused the honey mead to become more and more popular, especially among Polish and Lithuanian nobility.

According to medieval written sources the mead brewing was in particular widespread in Mazowsze, Pomorze and here in Malopolska. It is confirmed in the decree form 15th century issued by the bishop Zbigniew Olesnica in which he authorized the establishment of mead brewery in Grybow parish. In addition, Marcin Kromer, who was Polish 16th century historian, writes in his chronicle of Polish history that “honey with hop and water is common there, especially where bees are in abundance”.

Sadly, numerous wars, unreasonable custom policy and the fact that the majority of mead breweries were taken over by the foreigners, caused – visible form 17th century – the fall of mead making. As grape wines and high-proof vodka gained popularity, mead honey almost completely disappeared from Polish tables. Their quality decreased as they were made in inappropriate conditions. Only monasteries and a few nobility manors continued to produce excellent mead. Thanks to the attachment to traditions brewing recipes were passed on from generation to generation, what made it possible to preserve the unique quality of the mead.
For the individual producers, the real blessing became the book by Teofil Ciesielski entitled “Miodosytnnictwo – sztuka przerabiania miodu i owców na napoje”  that is still one of the best literary item in this field.
The tradition of mead brewing must have been deeply rooted in the mentality of Polish people as even in the interwar period still existed mead breweries in Krakow, Warszawa and more surprisingly in Nowy Sacz. The brewery from Nowy Sacz  -’Sandecja’ -apparently was quite well-known as it was visited by people from the whole country. Making mead was finally taken up by beekeepers who used honey from their own apiaries. After the WWII , beekeeping cooperatives from Krakow, Lublin, Poznan, Milejow, and Nidzica started to produce honey mead.

The unique tradition of mead brewing is being preserved by the Beekeeping Farm ‘Sadecki Bartnik’ in Stroze. The company distributes honey meads produced with its own raw materials. ‘Sadecki Bratnik’ offers nine varieties of mead: trojniaki – “Kozacki”, “Litewski”, “Rycerski” and “Kapucyn”; dwojniaki “Bartnik”, “Kasztel Niedzicki”, “Zbyszko” and “Macko” and poltorak – “Chrobry”. To honour the ancient pioneers the mead “Kapucyn” can be bought only in a stoneware jug.

By being the member of the EU, we hope that mead brewing will finally become a profitable occupation for beekeepers and Polish apiaries will gain a lot as tourist attractions. 

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About honey varieties

Mixed flower honey

As the name indicates, this kind of honey is made from the nectar collected by bees on variety of plant, not only crops but also on those that grow on meadows, in forests, in the lowlands and in the uplands. It has a light cream colour, sometimes tealike. It crystallizes quite fast, changing its colour into light gray or light brown. It is characterized by quite strong smell that reminds the smell of beeswax and its flavour depends on the nectar mixture brought to a beehive. Its healing properties also depends on the plant selection made by the bees while collecting.
Mixed flower honey is ideal for treatment of allergies since it contains flower pollen that acts as an antigen. 

Dandelion honey
Nectar used for production of this honey comes from Dandelion (Taraxacum) that is also used in herbalism. It has light yellow colour, sometimes even light orange. It is characterized by the smell of Dandelion flowers.
Dandelion honey contains, found in Dandelion flowers, choline and that is why it is perfect for treating liver and bile canals ailments.
It is also used in cases of anemia and physical and psychological exhaustion.

Oilseed rape honey

This kind of honey is the effect of processing by bees the nectar from oilseed rape. When fluid it is almost colourless or it has the colour of straw. After crystallization, which due to the high content of glucose happens extremely quick, it becomes cream white in colour and with slimy consistency. It has got faint smell of oilseed rape flowers.
Oilseed rape honey is recommended tith the circulatory disorders, in particular sclerosis. It balances the level of potassium in the system, decreases blood pressure and improves the nutrition of the heart muscle with oxygen and elements.

It is beneficial for treating skin diseases as, when applied externally, it prevents creating scald blisters and minimizes the risk of infection. It accelerates the healing process. It also has a positive influence on treating liver and respiratory system diseases.

Acacia honey
Pure acacia honey, made from nectar collected on the acacia flowers, happens to be colourlees or light cream. After crystallization prolonged by the large amount of fructose, it gains the straw colour. Its pleasant smell reminds of acacia flower.
Acacia honey is applied in treating stomach and duodenal ulcers as it accelelerates healing of sores and ulcers.

It is also used in hyperacidity, intestines inflammations and contractions because it improves their peristalsis.

Buckwheat honey
Used for production of this honey nectar comes from the flowers of buckwheat. It has dark colouring, often brown and even black under the influence of light.  While crystallizing, it creates hard,  thick crystals suspended in honey plasma. It has pungent smell and flavour, to some extent searing. It is the only kind of honey that contains large amounts of easily assimilable magnesium that is why it is recommended in treating cancerous diseases. It gives good results to administer buckwheat honey in preventive treatment of sclerosis. It also improves the work of heart muscle.
Recommended also for sight, hearing and memory impairment.

Linden honey
Linden honey is the product obtained by bees from the nectar of lime flowers. In liquid state it is the colour of light amber or yellow-green. After crystallizing it has got fine-grained consistency and becomes golden or white-yellow in colour. Linden honey has pleasant smell of lime flowers.
It is traditionally used in cases of severe and chronic respiratory diseases.

Just like lime, it has expectorant and antipyretic properties. It has calming and antispasmodic effects. Linden honey is characterized by extremely strong antibiotic effect, especially effective in cases of urinary system infections. It is also administered in neurosis.

Heather honey
Acquired from heath flowers nectar, characterized by specific organic features and smell, it is used by bees to produce one of the most precious honey variety. When liquid  it is red-brown. After cystallization, which happens rather fast, it becomes jellylike. It has got strong and specific smell of heath flowers. Its flavour is not sweet, even slightly bitter. In comparison to other varieties, it contains more vitamins and mineral elements.
Heather honey is recommended when dealing with urinary system diseases. It helps treating prostate ailments and nephrolithiasis. It if highly beneficial for curing intestines inflammation and diarrhea.

Honeydew honey
Honeydew honey is the honey product that contains honeydew from broadleaved and coniferous forests. It could be gree-gray, brown and even black as it depends on the type of the tree from which the honeydew is obtained. It crystallizes quite slowly and it becomes lumpy. It has got slightly spicy scent. Its flavour is delicate and not very sweet. Coniferous honeydew honey has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibiotic effects. It contains more than nectar varieties active substances, including iron.
It is used in respiratory diseases and lowered immunity. It also helps to treat rheumatic, skin and nervous system ailments.
Broadleaved honeydew honey has similar effect. However, thanks to the diuretic properties it is better for curing urinal and rheumatic diseases. It also has the diastolic effect and that is the reason it is recommended in diseases of liver, intestines and bile canals.

Honeydew-nectar honey
This mixed honey is produced by the combination of different flowers nectar and honeydew. Thanks to this its diverse ingredients and high nutritious content. It has greenish or brown-green colour before crystallizing and after light or dark brown. Its flavour depends on plant from which the material was acquired. This variety demonstrates strong antibiotic properties, especially when it comes from mountainous areas, located 1000 m. above the sea level.
Mixed honey is perfect for treating physical and psychological exhaustion, heart diseases and digestion disorder.
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