Sima

The new event year kicked off with a day event, Pen and Sword, held by my own shire, Dun in Mara. This was fairly small and fairly casual, but everyone did well and we managed to fit in archery, heavy fighting, fencing, A&S and even a small feast. Attendees seemed to have fun and the newbies brought along to the event enjoyed themselves. I was in charge of the A&S end of things. Stefano, visiting from Eplaheimr, taught tablet weaving in the morning and in the afternoon. I gave a class on the bardic arts in the morning, and we gave small performances at the feast. There was a display of people’s projects, varying from a luxurious reproduction of a Renaissance fan to a wonderful little wooden carving of a horse.

For the day, I donated blue cheese biscuits and non-alcoholic drinks. The site was dry, so I figured that we could use something beyond water and fruit juices – although nobody, in the end, seemed to have brought juices. The biscuits were done using a modern recipe (Nigella Lawson’s, if you must know, from the Domestic Goddess), once I had established that blue cheese was indeed Period. Apparently Charlemagne was quite a fan. Otherwise the biscuits only required butter, egg yolks and flour.

My mother had visited me from Finland during the holidays, and I’d got her to bring some kits for kotikalja, known elsewhere as svagdricka, or kvas, or smallbeer. It makes a malt drink, only slightly fermented, good enough to give to children. I made six litres of this. It was, however, superseded in popularity by a traditional Finnish drink, sima. It’s often translated into English as ‘mead’, although the most common recipe doesn’t use honey and it’s not alcoholic. I found at least one recipe that did use honey, so I will experiment with that at some point. I can’t say anything else about the periodness or otherwise of this drink, except that all the ingredients are period and I can’t imagine that the preparation method would have changed a lot either. This is how you make it.

For four litres of sima, bring two litres of water to boil and pour it over 250g of white and 250g of dark muscovado sugar. Mix in the juice squeezed from two lemons and another two litres of cold or cool water. Mix in about half of a 7g bag of dried yeast. (I experimentally used fast action since I couldn’t find anything else, it worked fine). The water must be warm for the yeast to awaken, but not too hot so it doesn’t die – about 40-42 degrees is the ideal. I also washed and sliced the squeezed lemons and added them to the mix. Stir and let it rest in room temperature for 24-48 hours. I used a very large saucepan for all this.

Sieve and bottle the sima. In each bottle, add a teaspoon of sugar and several raisins. Do not quite fill the bottles and do not close them too tightly, as the pressure within will grow as the fermentation process continues. When all the raisins have risen to the surface, the sima is ready. Serve cool. You can adjust the colour of the sima by adjusting the mix of dark and white sugars, or solely use one or the other. This recipe gives quite an ale-esque taste – do not think that what you get at the end is anything like a lemonade!

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It’s also possible to add to or replace the lemons with other fruit or berries, but I haven’t tried this yet. At some point I will try out raspberry sima. In Finland, the lemon sima is a traditional drink for Vappu, the first of May.

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