Sima – Traditional Finnish lemon mead
May 1, 2012
Today is May Day, Vappu in Finnish. Vappu comes from the Swedish term “Valborgsmässoafton” (Walpurgis Night) a traditional festival for Spring. The celebration actually begins on the evening of last day of April and continues to 1st of May.
Vappu can be compared to a big street Carnival in Finland, everyone is soooooo happy, go out to have picnics and party outside. People wear decorative clothes, children get huge colored helium balloons, you can throw serpentines and wear your “yliopilaslakki“, the cap you receive when you graduate in High School (lukio). The same cap is used for “crowning” statues in towns around the country.
Also, as part of the tradition, people enjoy Sima, a sparkling drink that you can make yourself at home, usually accompanied by tippaleipä (a traditional Vappu fried cake), rosette (fried pastry) or munkki (donuts).
According to Finnish Wikipedia sima is considered to be mead but differs a lot from its counterparts by being much more sweeter and flavored with citrus fruits. Its alcohol content is very low too.
Honey might have been used to make Sima in the old times but nowadays the flavors are given the most by brown sugar and lemons. Believe me, it is a very refreshing beverage!
Sadly, I didn’t have time to make Sima last year… The beverage needs to be prepared in advance, takes about one week for it to become ready.
Sima – Traditional Finnish Mead
Recipe adapted from here
- 4 l water
- 500 g brown sugar (because I prefer a darker sima with deep flavor. If you want lighter, use 250g brown sugar and 250g caster sugar)
- 1/2 dl honey
- 2 organic lemons (juice and zest). Alternatively, remove the rinds and slice the lemons.
- 1/5 tsp fresh yeast (about the size of a pea)
- sugar and raisins for the bottles
- a big clean bucket (I used a 10L bucket) or a big pan with loosen lid
- 4-5 bottles with caps (if you don’t have glass ones, use clean plastic soda bottles, well washed and dry)
Boil 2 litres of water and put the sugar into the bucket. Pour the boiling water over the sugar and stir to combine. Once the sugar is totally dissolved, add the rest of water, honey, lemon juice and zest (or the lemon slices)
Let cool to lukewarm, then stir in yeast (dilute it in a small amount of water and add to the mixture). Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours (and up to 48 hours), until surface begins to bubble slightly.
On the second or third day you can bottle the sima. Strain the liquid into clean glass bottles or plastic ones. Add to each bottle a couple of raisins (3-5) and 1 tsp of caster sugar. Make sure the caps or lids are barely screwed on. Don´t close too tight!! Leave space for the gas to escape otherwise you will get too much pressure to your bottles.
Sima is ready when the raisins float on the surface (on day 5 or 6): takes about 3 days at room temperature or a week refrigerated (the temperature affects how quickly the beverage ferments).
Once ready, tighten the caps and put the bottles in the fridge. If you fear it is getting too much carbonated, release any gas from bottles that are too tight.
Keep in cool and serve chilled!
Consume in one week
You can easily double the recipe. Use 1/4 tsp fresh yeast for 1kg of sugar (half white half brown).
The raisins are added in the “secondary fermentation” to control the amount of sugars and to act as an indicator of readiness for consumption — they will swell by absorbing carbon dioxide and rise to the top of the bottle when the drink is ready (from Wikipedia article on Sima)
Hauskaa Vappua! Happy 1st of May friends!!