My husband and I bought our home last November, and I was so excited to see what grew in our yard when spring came (at long last!). In addition to a variety of gorgeous perennials, we have a tiny but prolific rhubarb patch. I’ve been having fun coming up with creative ways to use up our rhubarb harvest, the first of which is this rhubarb sima.
Sima is a fermented lemonade, made with water, yeast, sugar and lemons. It is a part of Finnish May Day (Vappu) celebrations, often served alongside donuts or funnel cake. If you’ve never made the classic version, I suggest you give it a try, especially if you like fizzy drinks. I also enjoyed this article from the BBC on the history of sima in Finland.
Rhubarb sima is a milder, lightly sweet fermented beverage. It’s definitely my kids’ favorite of all the sima varieties we’ve tried so far! If you like milder flavors, or if you’ve tried the traditional or grapefruit sima and found them to be too sour or tangy, you may enjoy this one more!
Tools & Equipment for sima
- Large pot: Big enough to boil a gallon of water
- Large non-metallic container: I prefer this glass jar
- Cutting board
- Funnel: to transfer sima to bottles
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Bottles or containers: I’ve been happy with these
Ingredients for rhubarb sima
- Rhubarb: washed and diced
- Sugar: white and brown-for sweetness, and to give the yeast something to eat!
- Active dry yeast
- Filtered water
- Raisins: to indicate when sima is sufficiently fermented
Wash and dice rhubarb, and set aside.
Bring water to a boil on the stove. When it reaches a boil, add brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, and rhubarb and stir. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm.
Transfer to a non-metallic container (I use this jar). Add yeast when lemonade is between 110-115 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, it should feel only very slightly warm to the touch. Cover lightly.
Leave to sit on the counter until little bubbles begin to appear at the upper edge, approximately 8-10 hours or overnight.
Sterilize your bottles. I do this by pouring boiling water over clean bottles in the sink, then using an oven mitt to carefully transfer them to a clean area on the counter.
Place granulated sugar in each bottle- I use about 1 teaspoon each, but you can adjust to taste and to the size of your bottles, about 1-2 teaspoons per quart of sima. Place a few raisins in each bottle as well.
Strain the sima and pour into your containers. Cork or seal tightly.
Let stand at room temperature until the raisins have risen to the top of the sima. The time this takes will vary depending on the temperature of your kitchen, from 8 hours to 24 or more. When the raisins have risen, the sima is ready to drink.
You’ll definitely want to burp your bottles of excess carbon dioxide, particularly if they’ve been on the counter longer than a day or so-and be careful when you do this. Do not aim bottle stoppers at your face (take it from me).
Place in the refrigerator. This will both chill your sima and stop further fermentation. Enjoy!
- 2 cups diced rhubarb
- 1 gallon filtered water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup + 2-3 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
- approx 1 Tbsp raisins
- If not already done, wash and dice rhubarb, and set aside
- Place water in a large pot and bring to a boil
- Add brown sugar and 1 cup granulated sugar. Add rhubarb, and remove from heat
- Allow to cool to lukewarm (110-115 degrees Farenheit)
- Add yeast, stir. Transfer mixture to a large non-metallic container such as a glass jar
- Cover lightly, and leave to sit overnight at room temperature (or until little bubbles appear around the edges near the surface)
- Sterilize bottles, allow to cool. Place 1 tsp granulated sugar (or more, to taste) in each bottle.
- Place a few raisins in each bottle.
- Strain sima into bottles and cover or cork tightly.
- Leave to sit at room temperature until all raisins have risen to the top of the sima. This could take anywhere from 8-24+ hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen
- Transfer to the fridge to stop fermentation and chill. Enjoy!
1. Once corked and fermenting on the counter, you will want to burp sima once a day. I typically burp my bottles once after about 12 hours fermentation time, let them sit on the counter another 12 hours or so, at which point the raisins are generally all risen. If you do not burp them at all the sima will be fizzier, but you run the risk of bottles exploding or a cork flying off. The first time I attempted sima, I left my bottles too long and when I tried to uncork them, the whole cork and clasp went shooting off into the sink, followed by most of the liquid. I'm thankful that I had the good sense to aim the bottle away from my kids.
2. To burp, I hold the cork down, flip the clasp up until I hear the carbon dioxide whooshing out. I only let out the first spurt of excess air before firmly re-corking. If you like a less fizzy sima, you can let out more air.
3. For some reason, my rhubarb sima has tended to be slightly less fizzy than my traditional or grapefruit sima. It is definitely still a carbonated lemonade! But if you prefer a more moderate amount of fizz, this one may be a good option.
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How did it turn out? Let me know in the comments! Also, if anyone manages to make this without splashing a bunch on the counter, I would request that you come over and give me a demonstration 🙂
If you’ve got more rhubarb to use up, try Brown Butter Rhubarb Muffins!