Sima – finnish sourdough mead
It’s almost May Day aka Vappu in Finnish – that means it’s time to make some sima! Sima is a traditional Finnish mead, a refreshing very low alcohol drink made with honey, sugar, yeast, lemons and water. You add a few raisins to each bottle, and once they float, the mead is ready to drink!
I’ve stopped using commercial yeast years ago and prefer to make my sima the way I make my bread too: with a sourdough starter! Sourdough mead is more fresh in flavor in my opinion, and the mead gets ready super fast.
Sourdough mead – traditional and experimental
Traditional Finnish mead is made with lemons, (brown) sugar, honey, yeast and raisins, but we’ve been experimenting with all kinds of other citrus fruits, as well as with different warm spices. Whilst experimenting, we’ve discovered a few things! The seeds of the chili are best removed for instance (LOL) and anything can get too overpowering if left in the mixture for too long. That’s why strong spices are best added in big pieces – they’ll be easy to remove once the flavor is how you like it!
Spices we’ve experimented with include lavender, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and fresh chili. Of the previous year’s batches, grapefruit & cardamom mead was a real winner, whilst the chili & lime turned out a bit too spicy. This year’s combo is of ginger, lemon and green cardamom! Juuso wanted to add in some fresh tamarind too, and I said no. I’m already in regret, so maybe next time?
I like my mead relatively “sour” so I add more lemon than traditional Finnish recipes usually call for. Mead is always sweet, but I prefer to add a lot of lemon to balance off the sweetness. Mead can be made with white sugar too, but Juuso and I are fans of a mixture of brown sugar and honey! If you’re a vegan, you should obviously leave out the honey 🙂
Finnish sourdough mead (sima)
- 4 sterilized 1 liter bottles with flip top or twist caps
- 300 g brown sugar (or half white sugar, half brown sugar)
- 3 tbsp organic honey (c. 100g)
- 3 liters water
- 3-5 big organic lemons (juice and peels)
- ½ tsp active sourdough starter
- lime, orange, grapefruit...
- cardamom, chili, ginger, cinnamon...
If you like, you can replace some of the lemons with other citrus fruits. We often experiment with spices too - a bit of fresh chili (careful though, it gets very spicy very fast!), a few cardamom pods, a stick of cinnamon or a few slices of fresh ginger are all wonderful additions to the traditional mead!
- Wash the lemons well and peel their yellow fragrant part off to a big pot that will fit at least 3,5 liters of water. Heat half of the water to boiling point, dissolve the sugar and honey to the water. Pour the mixture over the lemon peels and add the rest of the water.
- Once the liquid has cooled off to body temperature, add in the juice of the lemons. Taste and add more lemon juice if you like a more sour mead. Don't worry if the mead tastes very sweet at this point, it will change as the mead ferments.
- Mix in the active sourdough starter. (Make sure the liquid isn't too hot, around 27°C is a safe temp for the starter!)Cover the pot and leave at room temperature to ferment. It should take +/- 24 hours for the starter to start fermenting the mead, you should see tiny bubbles form at the top of the liquid.
- Once the bubbling has started, sieve off the lemons and spices and fill the sterilized bottles with the mead. Leave some empty space at the top! Add a few raisins to each bottle. Put the lid on the bottles, but don't close it all the way. Allow the bottles to ferment in room temperature for about a day and move them to fridge after that, at which point you can close the lids all the way.
- I recommend allowing the mead's flavors to develop a few days before drinking, and to open the lids a bit a few times to prevent too much gasses building up inside the bottles!
- The mead is ready to drink once the raisins float to the top and it's best consumed within 4-5 days.
Ps. Three liters of sourdough mead is the perfect amount for our two person household! Why? Because mead gets over fermented if you leave it in the fridge for too long. Also, too much of any good thing will turn it into a bad thing… If you’re making mead for a bigger party, I recommend doubling or tripling the recipe. Well, after trying it out first to see if you like it, of course!
You can read more about Finnish Sima and Vappu in Wikipedia (oh, Wikipedia, what would we do without you?)
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