Vappusima Recipe

22 April, 2023

Every year on the 1st of May we celebrate Vappu here in Finland. Many European countries have some version of this holiday (Walpurgis Night), but in Finland it’s commonly recognized as one of the four major holidays (along with Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Midsummer).

There is one specific drink associated with Vappu: sima.
Sima is a type of fermented mead, traditionally seasoned with honey and lemon.

Before you begin

Equipment and ingredients

Things you absolutely need:

Optional things to make your life easier:

Choosing the right bottle

You can use whatever bottles you have laying around, but there is one important thing to keep in mind: the pressure inside the bottle will keep building up as CO2 is generated during fermentation.

For plastic bottles, either leave the caps a little loose, or open the bottles up periodically to allow some of the CO2 to escape. If you don’t, they will explode all over your refigirator.

In my opinion the best choice are these glass flip-top bottles as they leak very little CO2, making the end product more bubbly, and won’t suddenly burst open during the fermentation process.

Step 1: Cleaning the equipment

Many online resources state that, unless you use purpose made disinfectants to clean your equipment, and spend an hour scrubbing every inch of your workspace, the end product of your brewing efforts will inevitably be spoiled. This is false, and frankly a little psychotic.

Simply wash your equipment (this includes your hands) with soap and hot water, and make sure to rinse them liberally afterwards, as you don’t want the sima to taste like cleaning products

Step 2: Preparing the mead base

Start by heating up 3 liters of water in a large pot. Dump in all the sugar and honey, and whisk until dissolved. Add the cinnamon sticks, leave simmering.

pot filled with simmering liquid

1. Dissolving honey and sugar into water

Peel some rinds off some lemon and orange rinds, and thow them into the pot. Cut the lemons and oranges in halves, and squeeze the juice into the pot through a colander. Place the mangled fruits to the side for later.

Cutting board with citrus fruits and cooking utensils

2. Harvesting lemon and orange peels + juice

After simmering the liquid on low heat for ~10 minutes, dump it into your brewing vat. Do this through a colander to catch the cinnamon sticks and rinds.

Add cold water to the vat in such a way that there is exactly 10 liters of liquid, and the temperature is suitable for your choice of yeast (between 25-40°C is usually fine). If you don’t have a thermometer to check the temperature, aim for a liquid that is warm to the touch: as long as it’s not too hot for the yeast to die, it’s fine.

Add the yeast, and give the liquid a good stir to incorporate.

If you have a brewing pouch, fill it with the cinnamon sticks and citrus pulp, and throw it into the vat.

Close the vat, and let the mead base ferment for 1-3 days in a warm place. Fermentation time depends on the type and amount of yeast used, but 2 days is usually sufficient.

To help with the bottling process, I recommend you move the whole vat to somewhere cool for 12-24 hours before bottling, so the yeast has time to deactivate and fall to the bottom.

A brewing vat filled with sima

3. A brewing vat filled with sima sitting on the floor

NOTE: If you are using an open faced container (e.g. a bucket), remember to wrap the top tightly with plastic foil.

Step 3: Bottling and cold fermentation

Once the base has fermented, it’s time to bottle it and move it into a cool place (e.g. a refigirator) to ferment for additional 1-4 days.

When bottling the sima, try not to shake the vat as not to disturb the sediment at the bottom. If you have a siphon at your disposal, now is the time to use it. If not, I recommend ladeling (or pouring) the liquid into a different container, leaving as much of the thick, yeasty mess in the bottom of the vat as possible.

siphoning sima from brewing vat to other containers

4. Siphoning sima from the brewing vat into some pots

Before bottling, taste the sima and see if it needs any additional sweetening. Depending on how active the yeast has been (i.e. how much sugar it has consumed), the sima might be a little dry and boozy. Add some cane sugar oe honey to sweeten if necessary.

bottling sima on a kitchen counter

5. Sima being bottled


Congratulations, you should now have about 10 liters of delicious sima.

Drink responsibly, and have a good Vappu!

sima bottle and glass sitting on a table

6. Delicious sima basking in the sun