For 4.5L (one gallon) you will need:
- five or six heads of elderflower
- two lemons
- 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar
- two tablespoons of vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)
- enough plastic fizzy drinks bottles to hold the elderflower champagne.
Note that there is no added yeast in this recipe. The flowers are not scalded or sterilised, which leaves the wild yeasts naturally present on the blooms to do the fermentation for you.
How to make elderflower champagne
- Pick nice young flower heads, where the flowers have not yet started to drop petals or turn brown. You’ll get pollen on you, but don’t worry – it doesn’t stain. Use the flowers promptly or the aroma will change and become unpleasant.
- Put 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of water in a large lidded saucepan.
- Add the elderflower heads (having shaken
any bugs off them first) and two sliced lemons. Put the lid on, and leave it for a 24 to 36 hours.
- Strain the liquid through a clean cloth. A seive will do fine if you don’t mind a few petals or tiny bugs in the drink, and it won’t alter the taste one bit.
- Add 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar and two tablespoons of cider vinegar, and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Pour into fizzy drinks bottles. Put the tops on to keep fruit flies out, but don’t screw them on tight yet – just stand the bottles in a corner and keep an eye on them. After a few days they will start to make tiny bubbles as the wild yeasts get to work on the sugar.
- After one or two weeks the bubbles will gradually slow down. When they look like they have pretty much stopped, screw the lids down and put the bottles somewhere fairly cool. Give them another few days to generate enough gas to carbonate themselves, and you’re set – just refrigerate the bottle before you need it, and serve over ice with lemon.
|Elderflowers, water, sugar and lemons|
The elderflower champagne is still ‘live’ and continuing to ferment, so the longer it is stored the more alcoholic (and drier) it will become. Keep a note of how long it takes to be perfect for your taste, and bear that in mind for following years: by three months old it will be too dry for most tastes, but unless you make large quantities it’s unlikely to last that long.
|Bottled and jugged|
The trick with this method is to keep checking the pressure in the bottles, particularly for the first few weeks. Just give each bottle a good squeeze – if you can’t squeeze the sides in at all, then the pressure is getting too high. When this happens very gently loosen the cap until you hear gas releasing, and wait until the noise dies down (be careful of the froth) before tightening up again.