Metheglin: the king's brew

Courtier, privateer, diplomat, swordsman, theologian, alchemist and incurable romantic, Sir Kenelm Digby was the sort of character you simply couldn’t make up. Oddly enough though, these days Digby is most revered among home brewers... 

Image by Jesse Wild

Image by Jesse Wild

Sir Kenelm Digby  (1603-1665) was a noted foodie, and he kept extensive notebooks of recipes encountered both in London and on his travels. These were published after his death by an enterprising steward under the title The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened (1669).

Among dishes with fantastic names like “a good quaking bag pudding” or “pease of the seedy buds of tulips”, there are no less than 115 different booze recipes, mainly for metheglin – or flavoured mead.  Kenelm got this brew from “Master Webbe, who maketh the King’s Meathe”. I’ve scaled it down considerably (Webbe’s recipe makes 300 bottles, but eight is probably enough to start with), and switched most of the fresh ingredients for dry ones. It’s strong and sweet, with a rather medicinal flavour.

1. Bring 10 litres of water to the boil. Add 5g of dried hops (I used East Kent Goldings) and boil for half an hour. Putting your ingredients in muslin bags will save you straining them off later.

2. Remove the hops, and stir in 1.6kg of honey. Boil for an hour, skimming occasionally.

3. Add 5g dried rose petals; 2 teaspoons each of dried rosemary, thyme and marjoram; 1 teaspoon of mint; 5g fresh ginger ; a stick of cinnamon and 4 tablespoons of oloroso (sweet) sherry. Webbe liked it with cloves and mace too, but “the King did not care for them”.

4. Boil for half an hour, then strain off the liquid into a sterilised fermenter and let it cool. If you want to check the specific gravity with a hydrometer (or an egg), it should be around 1075.

5. Whisk vigorously, then pitch half a teaspoon of yeast nutrient and 2 teaspoons of wine yeast. By the next day it should be fizzing nicely.

6. Leave it to ferment out and clear (mine took a few weeks), then siphon it off into sterilised wine bottles (corks rather than screw tops). Kenelm reckoned it would be ready to drink in a month or two, but it will keep much longer. 


Joly Braime is a writer and home brewer. He spends his leisure time tramping the moors or filling his coal shed with homemade alcohol.





To learn more about Sir Kenelm Digby, pick up a copy of issue 7, on sale now.

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Gone for a Burton

When a Second World War airman failed to return from a mission, his RAF comrades would declare grimly that he had gone for a Burton. The 'Burton' in this case was Burton ale - once as common as IPA is today. With this adapted recipe by Joly Braime, you can create this vanished ale at home...

Illustration by Louise Logsdon

Illustration by Louise Logsdon

In The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer (2014), Ron Pattinson observes that: “Burton, as consumed in London, is a puzzle – for the way it so quickly disappeared physically from the bar and virtually from people’s memories. In 1950 it was on draft in every pub in London.Twenty years later, few could even remember what it was.”

Though occasionally confused with IPA – that other famous Burton-on-Trent brew – Burton ale was a different beast. Broadly, it was strong, sweetish and quite heavily hopped and was distinctive for the fact that it was meant to be stored and matured. 

There are still a few Burtons left, living quietly under assumed names. If you want to try a 20th-century Burton ale, one is still produced seasonally under the Young’s brand, only they changed the name to Winter Warmer in 1971. According to Protz, Fuller’s well known ESB developed from its former Burton, while Cornell reckons Theakston’s Old Peculier “has all the hallmarks of a Burton”. And the original, supercharged stuff is very occasionally available as Bass No 1 Barley Wine. 

Or, you can have a go at brewing your own. This simple recipe is adapted from an 1850 Whitbread and an 1877 Truman, and inspired by The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer. It comes out full of flavour and body, and makes for surprisingly easy drinking, although at 7.5% it hits pretty hard. 

1. Heat 26 litres of water to 76°C, then stir in 8.5kg of pale malt (Maris Otter).

2. Mash (steep) the grain for an hour and a half. Keep the temperature as close to 66°C as you can, either by insulating or very gentle warming.

3. Collect the wort (liquid). Sparge (rinse) the malt with another 10 litres of water, heated to 76°C. Do this slowly to extract the maximum amount of sugar.

4. Bring the wort to the boil, then add 150g of East Kent Goldings, 1 teaspoon of carragheen (to help it clear) and 2 teaspoons of Burton salts (to replicate the mineral-rich water of Burton-on-Trent). Boil for an hour and a half, adding 150g more Goldings after an hour. There will be a lot of steam.

5. Cool the wort as quickly as you can, bringing it down to about 22°C.

6. If you have a hydrometer, check the specific gravity (SG). It should be around 1081. You can adjust it up by adding sugar, or down with water.

7. Put the wort in a fermenter or large bucket then whisk vigorously for a few minutes to aerate it. Add a high-tolerance yeast (I used Mangrove Jack’s M15 Empire Ale). Whisk again, then fit a lid and an airlock (or drape a clean tea towel over the top).

8. Make a bonus batch of ‘small beer’ by repeating steps 3-7. Because the Burton ale uses so much grain, there will still be plenty of sugar left in the malt. Sparge slowly, keeping an eye on the SG of the wort to make sure it doesn’t drop below 1035. I got about 20 litres, which I brewed with 75g of Fuggles hops to make a gentle 3.5% pale ale.

9. Leave to ferment for about five days – or until the gravity is down to around 1024 – then rack (siphon the beer carefully off the sludge) into a clean vessel.

10. Bottle after a few more days, adding half a teaspoon of sugar to each 500ml bottle (you should get about 35 bottles). Set aside for at least six weeks if you can bear it, and no less than two if you can’t. 


Joly Braime is a writer and a home brewer. His workload is fairly eclectic, from outdoor magazines and a book on Sherlock Holmes to erotic fiction. He spends his leisure time tramping the moors or filling his coal shed with homemade alcohol.


This recipe features in issue six of Ernest Journal, on sale now. 

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Dutch oven pizza

Heating beans in a can while camping with chums can only go so far. Get yourself a Dutch oven, a heavy duty cast-iron cooking pot that steps campfire cooking up a few notches

Photo: Miscellaneous Adventures

Photo: Miscellaneous Adventures

The genius of the Dutch oven's design is the rimmed lid, which can hold hot coals and embers, allowing your food to be cooked evenly. With practise, anything you cook in a regular oven can be cooked in one of these. To maintain your pan for years of outdoor cooking, clean it with boiling water after use and wipe lightly with vegetable oil to keep it seasoned and to prevent rust. 

Try this easy recipe, provided by Miscellaneous Adventures, for quite possibly the best pizza you’ll ever eat. 


Pizza dough (made from 350g/12oz plain flour, 2 tbsps olive oil and 150-200ml tepid water)
Passata (tomato sauce)
Toppings – we used salami, jalapenos, prosciutto ham and olives
Olive oil 


1. Get a good campfire going. Rub oil all over the inside of the pot and lid – this will ensure the dough doesn’t stick to the oven. 

2. Pre-heat your seasoned oven on the fire. Once hot, take it off the heat and move some of the embers from the fire to one side. Now it’s time to prep your pizza.

3. Roll out the dough thinly (5mm/1⁄4in thick) and place directly in the bottom of the oven followed by tomato sauce, cheese and then the toppings of your choice. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Put the lid back on the oven and place it on the embers you set aside from the main fire. Next, add some more embers to the lid of the oven so it’s completely covered. Leave for five minutes.

4. Carefully lift off the lid using a hook or spoon handle and check that the base is cooked (it should easily lift from the bottom of the oven in one piece with a spatula). If it’s still soggy, leave it for a little longer and keep checking until it’s crisp. Once the base is done, move the oven off the heat but leave the embers on the lid. Let them sit there for another 10 minutes until the toppings are crisp and the cheese is fully melted. Remove the lid, slide the pizza out onto a plate or board and enjoy!

For more outdoor cooking recipes, bushcraft techniques and camping gear visit

For our more slow adventure and wild food inspiration, buy print issue 5 of Ernest Journal, on sale now.

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Kit review: the Onja Stove Duo from Primus

ITV's Coast and Country presenter and founder of Dryad Bushcraft Andrew Price puts his outdoor cooking know-how to the test on the new Onja Stove Duo from Primus while adventuring on the Gower Peninsula

Primus Onja Stove Duo, complete with oak board and utensil roll, RRP £  105

Primus Onja Stove Duo, complete with oak board and utensil roll, RRP £105

Back in the 1980s, when I first showed an interest in camping, my friend’s father gave me an ancient brass camping stove in a rusty tin box to help get me started. The thing hadn’t been used in decades so I eagerly polished the tarnished fuel tank to a mirror shine with Brasso before marching up to my local ironmongers to buy some paraffin. In those days paraffin was sold by the gallon, and since I didn’t have a container my friendly ironmonger sold me a jam jar full of the stuff for 10p along with a new leather washer, and sent me on my way. 

When I got home I filled the fuel tank with paraffin, and with the help of my friend’s dad I changed the old and perished washer for the lovely new one, unscrewed the pressure release valve, primed the pre heater with methylated spirits and lit it with a match. Just before the meths had completely burned away I re-tightened the pressure release valve and apprehensively began to pump the stove. Within seconds it roared to life with a noise reminiscent of a Vulcan bomber ready for takeoff. Magic.

That was an old Primus no.23 stove, and it served my friends and I very well for years. It could boil a pot of water in a few minutes, and with its thunderous roar and bright blue flame it never failed to get the job done, whatever the weather.

Over 100 years of craftsmanship

Primus have been making camping stoves since 1892, and they’ve played a vital role in practically every significant expedition of the 20th Century, from Scott’s ill-fated South Pole expedition, to the first successful ascent of Everest.  

The Onja stove from Primus continues in that great Swedish tradition of quality and practicality, all packaged into a compact two burner design that offers a lot of versatility for the wilderness gourmet. One burner is fine if you’re making tea or thawing out some pemmican on the frozen wastes of Antarctica, but if you want to sauté asparagus while pan frying a couple of freshly caught seabass fillets, two burners is definitely the way to go.

The Onja Stove Duo is the most compact two burner stove in the Primus range, and with its neat folding design and handy shoulder strap you can take it anywhere, from a picnic in your local park to an extended canoe trip in Scotland. In its folded state it can easily be mistaken for a messenger bag, and it only weighs 3kg.

The stove uses Primus bottled gas in either 100g, 230g or 450g sizes, and each burner has a separate fuel source so you will need two bottles of gas to power both burners. The gas isn’t supplied with the stoves, but they are available in outdoor shops all over the country, so resupply shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re in the middle of nowhere. The gas bottles can be carried fitted to the stove so they are out of the way. 

A thing of beauty and practicality

Heat can be adjusted precisely with the neat folding steel switches, and I had no problems using it to boil water or gently simmer a pan of soup. The sturdy steel construction is very stable and the burners are at a very useful height for cooking while sitting cross legged on the ground, or on a table top.

The lid of the stove top is a beautifully polished oak board, which can be used as a chopping board or as a level surface for a couple of glasses of Chablis. The features in brass, leather and fabric are a nostalgic reminder of its Primus heritage, so typically Swedish.

Combined with the Primus campfire stainless steel cook set, utensil roll and a bit of imagination, this stove should give you many memorable outdoor dining experiences.

Andrew carries the Onja stove packed up neatly like a messenger bag

Andrew carries the Onja stove packed up neatly like a messenger bag

Primus Onja Stove Duo, £105. To locate a store near you, visit For more about the story behind Primus, read our Q&A in the Ernest directory

Andrew has worked as an outdoor pursuits instructor for over 20 years, teaching rock climbing, abseiling, gorge walking, coasteering, kayaking and canoeing, before specialising in bushcraft and survival skills through his company Dryad Bushcraft. He's also presenter of ITV's Coast and Country.


Cooking outdoors

Upload photos of your outdoor food adventures to Instagram and you could win a Primus Onja stove worth £105

Primus Onja stove, SRP £105

Primus Onja stove, SRP £105

With a heatwave expected this Bank Holiday and hopefully a long Indian summer in the coming weeks, there’s no better time to gather family and friends together for a bit of cooking in the great outdoors.

Our friends, iconic Swedish stove makers Primus have crafted a genius new range of kit for cooking up culinary delights in the wild with their new CampFire collection.

Scandinavian craftsmanship

Drawing on 120 years of stove expertise, smart Scandinavian design and sustainable materials, CampFire is a beautifully crafted three-strong range of double burner stoves, high quality pots, pans and accessories for those with a love of entertaining outdoors.

Out of the three double burner stoves in the range, Onja (SRP: £105) is a show-stopper stove made in Europe from a unique blend of stainless steel, oak, brass, cloth and leather.  Compact and portable, it’s easy to assemble and pack away, yet suitable for large pots for cooking up culinary treats outdoors.  Plus there’s no need for expensive, heavy gas cylinders as the all the stoves run off easy-to-buy self-sealing LP gas cartridges. Simply cook, eat, laugh, pack up, pop on your shoulder and plan your next outdoor culinary adventure.

Clever little touches to this aesthetically appealing range include:

  • stackable stainless steel pots with integrated colanders in lids that can be packed away neatly into a storage bag
  • a utensils kit, complete with oak and stainless steel knives and accessories, held in a polycotton wrap that can be rolled out flat or hung
  • a cutlery set that packs neatly into a leather sleeve
  • a utility sack with a watertight roll-top closure – handy for carrying water or food in, then taking home used cutlery and plates
Primus Onja stove, SRP £105

Primus Onja stove, SRP £105

Win a Primus Onja stove

To be in with a chance of winning one of these finely crafted stoves, we want to see photos of your summer outdoor cooking adventures. Upload your photo to Instagram, tag @primusequipment and @ernestjournal and use the hashtag #outdoorcooking. The most inspiring pic will win a Primus Onja stove worth £105.

Next week: keep your eyes peeled for ITV Coast and Country presenter Andrew Price reviewing this awesome piece of kit for Ernest

Terms and conditions:

1. The closing time and date is 11.59pm on 4 September 2016. Entries after that date will not be considered. 2. The prize is a Primus Onja stove, SRP £105. 3. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative can be offered. 4. See our full terms and conditions.