|Bilberry Rhubarb Sima|
If you hurry up with this, you can still have homemade sima for Vappu – it’s just a few days away!
Vappu, which is Finnish for “May Day”, celebrated on the first of May, is a celebration that I’ve never seen the likes of anywhere else. The closest is maybe Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Karnival in Germany. Finns in Helsinki start the celebration on April 30th already, when the march down to the Esplanade wearing their white Lukio graduation caps, if they are students – they are wearing the one-piece long-sleeve overalls representing their school, and for many, the day is all about eating, drinking (a lot) and hanging out in a huge crowd in the city center. There are multi-colored streamers and crazy clothes, and the putting on and taking off a Lukio graduation cap to and from the head of the statue in the square near the marketplace. The Finns have a great time with this holiday, and look forward to it every year.
As with most Finnish holidays, there are very specific foods involved. Vappu is also about “munkit”(donuts), “sima” (a special yeasted fruity beverage which I’ve made here with a new spin) and “tippaleipä” which is essentially a soft dough that is piped into a bird’s nest still shape directly into a pot of hot oil (I’ve never really understood this last one, but Finns seem to love it. Could be like mämmi…can any of you Finns let me know what the trick is there). At any rate, the Finnish holiday is great fun (though I don’t understand the appeal of getting blazing drunk – there are plenty of ways to enjoy it – especially with homemade sima on hand).
It is a lot different from my childhood version, though that was always good for a laugh when we were kids too: we’d hang flowers on the neighbor’s door, ring the doorbell, and run away – hiding behind a bush or a tree to see their reaction and then be completely pleased with ourselves all day. We never got a day off for it though! And we never had any special food either.
But here in Finland, the traditional munkki and sima combination is excellent. You need to plan your sima in advance if you cannot buy it where you live, because it takes 4 -7 days for the brew to be ready: the yeast needs time to do its work in carbonating the beverage. Traditional sima is made with water, sugar, yeast and lemons. I’ve changed that up here to use rhubarb and bilberries. The recipe is based on a recipe I found a couple of years ago in the Meidän Mökki magazine from May 2010 for Strawberry Rhubarb Sima, which they apparently pulled from the Maku magazine published in April 2006. There’s a lot of good sharing going on around here in the food world, and I love it. I’ve used bilberries because I didn’t have strawberries, and used a bit less sugar than called for in the original recipe. My batch is brewing in the refrigerator now, so I’ll let know how it goes.
Get your supplies ready! You’ll need fresh yeast rather than the dry kind that comes in a box on the grocery store shelf, and you need far less than you think. And as always, you can use blueberries instead of bilberries if that’s what you have.
Ready? Here we go:
|Filling the bottles. Isn’t it pretty?|
Bilberry Rhubarb Sima
based on recipe from Meidän Mökki 5/2010
In a large pot, combine:
1 liter/quart of water
5 dl (roughly 2.5 cups) chopped rhubarb
Bring to boil, reduce heat slightly, and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a large heat-resistant bowl, and add.
2 liters / quarts cold water
4 dl (2 cups) of bilberries
2.5 dl (1 1/4 cups) of sugar
Stir; check the temperature. It should be slightly warmer than room temperature. If so, add the yeast; if not, wait until it reaches room temperature:
7 g of fresh yeast combined with 1/4 cup water and stirred until smooth
Stir the yeast mixture into the fruit mixture to evenly distribute it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and allow it to sit and bubble at room temperature for 24 hours.
One day later…
Drain the sima through a fine-mesh sieve to separate the solids from the liquid. Pour the sima liquid into sterilized bottles that have a tight-fitting lid. Add 3-4 raisins to each bottle and screw the lid tightly on.
Note: you’ll want to leave air space for this as the yeast will continue to ferment and the gas will build up inside the bottle creating the carbonation that makes sima so good.
|Note the head-space in the bottles: don’t overfill!|
Place your bottles of sima in the refrigerator and patiently wait for 3-5 days until the raisins rise to the top, indicating that your sima is ready to enjoy. (when I made this last time, not all the raisins rose, but boy was the sima ready to go after 3 days – so maybe test a bottle then so you can enjoy this as soon as possible. Open carefully! There is a high chance of these fizzing heavily so open over the sink and have a glass ready.
Makes roughly 4 liters.
For you traditionalists out there, I give you the sima recipe from Helsinki Sanomat: