I’m missing “vappu”! (May Day / Walpurgis Night)

Following the people updating about the First of May celebration and picnic with friends made me feel a bit homesick. I just love First of May, which in Finland is not only an International Worker’s Day but more Walpurgis Night by English missionary  Saint Walburga, canonised on 1 of May (ca. 870) . In Finnish the first of May is called Vappu (also a female name), in Swedish Vappen. I guess Walpurgis Night is celebrated also in Sweden, perhaps also in Norway and Denmark? Iceland?

I consider First of May the only carnival Finland has! It’s a party especially for students and in general to everybody celebrating the spring – a party filled with picnics, balloons, colours, market, little trumpets and other noisy stuff kids can buy from the market, homemade mead and donuts (and with a lot of sparkling wine or other alcohol…)

I made also my own “sima” here in Poland. Here you can’t find the special sugar we use for “sima” (fariinisokeri, a soft mixture of white sugar and dark sugar syrup), so I used demerara sugar instead. The result was a pit paler, but the taste was ok. I also made donuts, but I didn’t have my own recipe with me and the result was not as good as I hoped for…

Ingredients for “sima”. On the background the typical Slavic lace curtain in my kitchen window.

Bottled “sima”








I guess “mead” is the best translation to “sima”, this fermented bubbly drink made of sugar, yeast and lemon – although Finnish “sima” isn’t made of honey and is very low in alcohol, so children drink it as well.  I was quite amused to notice that in different language the names for alcoholic honey or sugar drink are probably of same origin.

  • mead
  • miód pitny (Polish alcoholic honey drink)
  • mjöd in Swedish (same drink as Finnish “sima”)
  • mesi? Old Finnish word for honey

Wikipedia states, that the word mead derives from

  • Old English “meodu”
  • Proto-Germanic “meduz”
  • Proto-Indo-European “médʰu”
  • Slavic “med” / “miod”, (Czech, Slovak, Serbian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Croatian: med vs. medovina
  • Polish “miód”
  • Baltic “medus”/”midus “
  • Proto-Indo-European root (cf. Welsh medd, Old Irish mid, and Sanskrit madhu)


Gosh, my humble little sima bottles feel now connected to centuries of human kind’s history!

Edit: I added the receipt if you want to try to make it!

It’s really easy to make “sima”, it’s a nice, cooling summer drink with a bit of character in it! And if it happened that it would not work out, e.g. you wouldn’t get enough bubbles in it don’t worry: that happens sometimes to even the best cooks!

Receipt for “sima” (Finnish low alcohol sugar mead, also for children)

8 l water
500 g sugar
500 g “fariinisokeri”, dark sugar or normal sugar
2-3 lemons
¼ teaspoon of yeast (amount about a size of a pea)



10 l bucket

1. Pour all sugar in the bucket. Boil half of the water, and pour it in the bucket, stir so that the sugar melts. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice. (If you want, you can wash&brush well one or all the lemons, peel and add the skin as well). Add the rest of the water, stir.

2. Take a little bit of water from the bucket in a cup and dissolve the yeast in it. Pour the yeast mixture in the bucket, stir.

3. Let ferment in room temperature for 12-24 h.

4. Bottle the “sima” (: at the bottom of every bottle add 1 teaspoon of sugar. In every bottle add 2-4 raisins. Leave the bottles to ferment either in room temperature for  approximately 3 days or in fridge for 1 week. One way to see if the drink is ready is to keep on eye the raisins: when they get up, there’s enough bubbles in your “sima”. However this can also happen before the drink is ready, so wait at least those 3 days/1 week.

If you use plastic bottles you might need to open up the corks a bit every now and then to let the pressure out. I prefer to use rubber corks: I don’t close them too tightly and they just pop off on themselves when the pressure gets too high. Then you just need to find the cork and seal the bottle again…