Our family name has always been a fun topic for us. Several generations of us were called POLECAT by our schoolmates. I was told that the name came from a coin but only recently discovered that it is also the name of a type of Polish Mead, one made with one part honey and 1/2 part water plus spices. Details below.
Półtorak (lit. one-and-a-halfer) was a small coin equal to 1½ grosz struck in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th century, during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa and John II Casimir Vasa. Initially a silver coin, with time its value deteriorated and the coin went out of use. Augustus III of Poland unsuccessfully tried to reintroduce it as a copper coin. The name stems from the Polish word “półtora” meaning one and a half.
Source – Wikipedia
Traditional production method Mead production in Poland is a tradition which dates back over a thousand years and is characterised by great diversity. The development and improvement of the production method over the centuries has given rise to many types of mead.
The history of mead production dates back to the beginnings of Poland’s statehood In 966 the Spanish diplomat, merchant and traveller, Ibrahim ibn Yaqub, wrote: ‘Besides food, meat and land for ploughing, the country of Mieszko I abounds in mead, which is what the Slavic wines and intoxicating drinks are called’ (Mieszko I was the first historic king of Poland).
The Chronicles of Gallus Anonymus, who recorded Polish history at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries, also contain numerous references to the production of mead. The Polish national epic poem ‘Pan Tadeusz’ by Adam Mickiewicz, which tells the story of the nobility between 1811 and 1812, contains a good deal of information on the production, consumption and different types of mead.
Mentions of mead can also be found in the poems of Tomasz Zan (1796-1855) and in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s trilogy describing events in Poland in the 17th century (‘Ogniem i mieczem’, published in 1884; ‘Potop’, published in 1886 and ‘Pan Wołodyjowski’, published in 1887 and 1888).
Source materials describing Polish culinary traditions of the 17th and 18th centuries contain not only general references to mead, but also references to different types of mead. Depending on the production method, they were called ‘półtorak’, ‘dwójniak’, ‘trójniak’ and ‘czwórniak’. Each of these names relates to a different type of mead, produced on the basis of different proportions of honey and water or juice, and different ageing times. The ‘półtorak’ production technique has been used, with minor modifications, for centuries. Traditional composition The traditional division of mead into ‘półtorak’, ‘dwójniak’, ‘trójniak’ and ‘czwórniak’ has existed in Poland for centuries and still exists in consumers’ consciousness to this day.
After the Second World War attempts were made to regulate the traditional division of mead into four categories. This division was finally enshrined in Polish law in 1948 by means of the Act on the production of wines, wine musts, meads and trade in such products (Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland of 18 November 1948). This Act contains rules on the production of meads, specifying the proportions of honey and water and the technological requirements. The proportions of water and honey for ‘półtorak’ are given as follows: ‘Only mead produced from one part natural honey and a half part water may be called “półtorak”’.