Finnish Lemon Mead and Crullers
Sometimes old books hold treasures.
Digging around an antique shop in St. Paul, we unearthed The Cooking of Scandinavia, a 40-year-old book in the Time / Life “Foods of the World” series.
The Cooking of Scandinavia is food writing at its finest: Clear, direct, meticulously researched, curious without being judgmental, and open to all that’s richest and most universal about the complicated human relationship with food.
Here’s a passage about the smorgasbord:
Considering the staggering numbers of herring dishes alone offered by the smorgasbord, is it any wonder that people arriving at this table for the first time often do so in trepidation? Where to begin? What to eat next? And how to end? Perhaps a smorgasbord can never be too big, but Liet, my wife, and I found ourselves overwhelmed by the one we found at Stockholm’s Operakallaren Restaurant, considered by all to be the finest in Sweden. The table was moored, like an enormous pleasure yacht, in the middle of the room, its decks crowded with no less than 60 selections.
There’s a photo that really sells the book, on page 159: A refreshing-looking lager-type liquid flows from a tap into a rounded glass, raisins floating to the top of the beverage. Two powder-sugar dusted funnel cakes sit beside the glass.
The liquid is Sima, a Finnish lemon-flavored mead. Although meads are typically made from honey, the recipe provided relies only upon white and brown sugars. Total cost to manufacture about five quarts of this sparkling, refreshing, sunshiney, and lightly alcoholic beverage: about $1.25.
The hotter the weather, the better this stuff tastes.
The funnel cakes — which, as it turns out, are a perfect counterpart to the refreshing lemon drink — are Tippaleivät, or May Day crullers.
Sima (Finnish Lemon-Flavored Mead)
Adapted from The Cooking of Scandinavia
Makes 5 quarts
2 large lemons
½ c granulated sugar
½ c brown sugar
5 quarts boiling water
⅛ tsp yeast
5 tsp sugar
- Measure the sugar and put it in a large (6 quart or larger) stainless steel or enameled bowl, or stockpot.
- Get a bit more than five quarts of water heating up to a boil.
- Prep the lemons. Using a sharp knife or rotary peeler, take off just the peels but not the white membrane underneath; put the peels into the bowl with the sugar.
- Using a knife, take off all the white membrane of your lemons, leaving just the fruit. Discard the membrane.
- Slice the fruit very thinly on a plate or raised-edge cutting board so that you can catch any incidental juice. Add the sliced lemons and juice to the bowl.
- Pour your boiling water over the sugars, lemon fruit, and peels. Give it a good stir.
- Wait a couple of hours until the bowl’s contents have cooled to a tepid temperature.
- Stir in the yeast. Let the bowl sit uncovered at room temperature for 12 hours.
- Grab five one-quart bottles. Put a teaspoon of sugar and three raisins into each bottle.
- Strain your lemon / sugar mixture through a sieve and transfer to a pitcher. Using a funnel, pour about a quart of liquid into each bottle, leaving some headroom.
- Let the bottles sit at room temperature for 1-2 days, until all three raisins have floated to the top.
- Refrigerate the bottles.
Tippaleivät (May Day Crullers)
Adapted from The Cooking of Scandinavia
Makes 14-16 crullers
2 tbsp lukewarm water
¾ tsp active dry yeast
1 c lukewarm milk
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 c flour
Vegetable oil for deep-fat frying
- Put the water into a small bowl and sprinkle in the yeast — let stand for 2-3 minutes, and then stir until the yeast is dissolved.
- Set the bowl in a warm, draft-free place such as an unlighted oven, and wait 3-5 minutes — the yeast should bubble and the mixture should double.
- Stir in the milk.
- In a large bowl, stir eggs and sugar together, then pour in the yeast mixture.
- While stirring briskly, add the salt.
- Add the flour ½ cup at a time, beating vigorously until a batter is formed.
- Cover with a kitchen towel, set in the unlighted oven for an hour or so, until the batter has doubled in bulk.
- Pour enough oil into a cast-iron skillet or deep-fat fryer until you’ve got an inch or two of depth.
- Heat until at least 325 degrees F, up to 350 degrees F.
- Spoon 1 cup of the batter into a pastry bag with a plain ¼-inch tip. Squeeze the batter out into the hot oil in circles to make a bird’s nest-style pattern, stacking 2 or 3 circles atop each other.
- Turn each cruller after a minute or so — they should be golden brown. Fry the other side for about a minute and remove to paper towels.
- Dust cooled crullers with powdered sugar and serve with Sima or coffee.