Gotta poke my head up here out of the haystack of late-year business and holiday things, most of them pleasant. Hi!
I’ve got the ingredients for the Great Matriarch’s Dire Stout just sitting and waiting for me to have an evening without a party or somesuch. Got a nice Zapap lauter tun waiting for January’s firhti (SCREW THE JUNIPER, EVERYTHING IS FIR NOW). But I wanted to share some plans I’ve got for the New Year’s Eve party brew.
I’m talking about sima!
Sima is a traditional Finn farmhouse thing; it’s low-alcohol, refreshing, and fast to make out of super simple ingredients. Mostly it sits in an uncovered pot in the corner of the kitchen taking care of itself while the pasties and whatnot get made. The recipe I’ll be using comes from the Pelkie Schools’ Reunion Cookbook, very kindly given to me by Lynn and Jack Lehto; I’ve found a few other recipes that vary in some minor details which I’ll address in a sec. (Pelkie School as in Pelkie, Michigan UP. Beautiful. And full of people who damn well know about Finn farmhouse things. Do not trifle with the UP.)
Here’s the recipe for a one-gallon batch of sima, transcribed verbatim:
4 quarts water
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/8 cup white sugar
2 lemons washed and thinly sliced
1/8 tsp dry yeast
1 tablespoon raisins
Heat water to boiling and stir in the brown sugar and 1c white sugar. Add the lemon slices. Cool to lukewarm and transfer liquid to a non-metallic container. Add yeast and stir. (Do not add the yeast until the liquid has cooled. Place a few drops on your wrist and if it feels neither hot or cold it is the right temperature.) Let the mixture stand overnight or at least 8-10 hours in a warm place. There should be tiny bubbles around the edge of the liquid after this length of time. Sterilize 8 pint bottles, or 4 quart bottles, or a 1 gal jar and place 1-2 tsp of sugar per quart of liquid into each container/s as well as 3-4 raisins. Strain the liquid and pour into the container/s. Seal and let stand at room temperature until the raisins have risen to the top of the bottle. This tells you that the sima has fermented enough and is ready to drink. In winter this may take 2 days or more: in summer 8 hours. Chill and store in the refrigerator.
So there you have it! The variations I found were primarily in the details of how to prepare the lemons and which fermentable sugar to use. Honey would be very suitable as a straight substitution, and so would malt extract. According to this handy ratio, you’d need about a pound of LME or 0.6 pounds of DME. This is an old, inexact, very forgiving recipe. Experiment! As for the lemons, some recipes recommended that you peel the fruit, remove and discard the pith, and slice the flesh–using both peel and flesh in the boil. I like bitter things so I’m using the whole fruit including the pith, but go with what you like. This is also a recipe that is very friendly to herbal additions like mint, ginger, lavender, or marjoram.
All accounts agree on the fact that sima should be drunk young. It’s supposed to be slightly fizzy and still have enough residual sugar to be somewhat sweet, with a fresh lemon tartness. It’s not supposed to be an intoxicant, either–it’s something to have when the weather is hot, or to refresh your mouth when you’re eating rich party food, or when you’ve had enough booze but still want a glassful of something interesting.
Maybe I’ll experiment with it to see what happens if you age it, or if you bump up the fermentables, but that’s basically light lemon citromel or lemon wine and that’s nothing new.
I’ll post some photos of the process and the results in due course, but since it only takes a couple of days to finish I can afford to procrastinate a bit longer. Bless those wily Finns, for they have devised a brew perfect for people with tons of other stuff to do.