Throughout Central and Northern Europe, May Day is one of the biggest holidays of the year. It begins on April 30th, exactly six months after Halloween, and marks the onset of spring. In recent decades, May Day has also been a celebration of labor, politics and education — particularly in Finland, where the entire nation takes to the streets in white “student caps” to eat sugared funnel cakes and drink sima, the traditional drink of the summer months.
Sima is a lightly-fermented lemonade: sweet, slightly bubbly and with a small amount of alcohol. Though it’s perfect for a May Day celebration, it makes a refreshing drink any time of year. Make it at home in 3 to 5 days, and celebrate springtime Scandinavian style.
makes about a gallon, or 20 servings
Using a peeler, remove the yellow outer rind from the lemons in strips. Place the rinds in a large, clean glass bowl, or any heat-proof container. Peel or trim off the bitter white lemon rinds and discard them.
Slice the lemons and place them in your container. Add the brown sugar and 1/2 cup of raw sugar.
Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil. When it is boiling steadily, pour it over the lemons and sugar. Alternatively, if you don’t have a heat-proof container, you can add the lemons and sugar to the pot of water, then immediately dunk the pot in a cool water bath to help it cool more quickly.
When the water is lukewarm, stir in the yeast. Cover the container and let it sit at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, or until you see some bubbles on the surface.
Strain the liquid into clean bottles. Plastic soda bottles are best, but glass bottles or jars will also work. Add a few raisins and a teaspoon or two of sugar to each bottle. Seal the bottles tightly and refrigerate them for two to five days, until the raisins float.
Because this is an actively fermenting beverage, you’ll want to drink it pretty quickly. If it sits too long or gets too warm, your bottles will explode (or you’ll end up with a higher alcohol content than you bargained for). So, enjoy it cool and fresh on a warm spring afternoon.