27 April, 2011

Sima (Mead, Finnish-Style)

(I posted this a year ago - but it's worth posting again!)

Sima (pronounced like Sim-ah) is traditionally made in Finland for May Day celebrations, called Vappu. It's rather different to the traditional honey-mead known throughout the world and associated with the Middle Ages or Ye Olde England. In Finland, the mead is prepared using lemons and ordinary bread yeast, it's a lot easier to make, and it's ready to drink in about four days, not four months!

When it's first prepared Sima is almost alcohol-free, but it can be left to ferment for up to two weeks, which makes it around 6%. Most people prefer to drink it at the 5-7 days stage. It's refreshing any time of year.

Finnish Sima

500g brown sugar plus 500g white sugar (or just 1kg brown, if you prefer the flavour and colour)
8 litres water
Juice of 2-3 lemons (around 40mL)
Few teaspoons extra white sugar
1/4 cup sultanas/raisins
1/4 teaspoon breadmaker's yeast
Optional: the shredded pulp and zest of the lemons

Boil 2-3 litres of the water and put the sugar into a large clean bucket. Pour the boiling water over the sugar and stir to combine. Add the lemon juice and pulp/zest.

Once the sugar is dissolved, add the rest of the water and allow it to cool until it's just above body temperature, no hotter than 45 degrees celsius.

(If you don't have a thermometer, 45 degrees is a very hot bath. 50 degrees is too hot to put your finger into without yelling. If in doubt, let it cool down for longer. Third-degree burns do not make the drink taste better.)

Add the yeast and stir, then leave the bucket unsealed for 24 hours at room temperature. Keep the dust out with a clean cloth.

The next day, you should see some small bubbles at the edge. Stir again and then pour into your clean soft drink bottles. (Photo posed by models.) Make sure the lids are only just barely screwed on. Check the mead after a few hours, and if the bottle is obviously pressurised, the lids are on too tight (loosen them so that gas can escape).

On day 3, add a teaspoon of white sugar plus few sultanas to each bottle. The mead should be kept at room temperature (anywhere from 15 to 30 degrees will work - the temperature will only affect how quickly the mead ferments.) Check the pressure of the bottles every day and release any gas from bottles that are too tight.

The sultanas normally begin to float on day 5 or 6, and this is when you know it's ready. A warmer room will be faster, a colder room slower. You can leave it to ferment longer if you wish. It will be more alcoholic the longer you wait, less sweet and more dry-tasting. Don't leave it longer than 2 weeks.

Once it's ready, tighten the lids and put it into the fridge. Enjoy nice and cold.

I promise it tastes good. Nothing like boiling urine, either.