ELDERFLOWER CHAMPAGNE

Elderflower champagne herbal medicine

Elderflower champagne is easy to make, and all you need apart from the flowers is a clean saucepan and some empty soft drink bottles bottles.

Elderflower champagne tastes like but has a gorgeous floral taste, and is mildly alcoholic (about 1.5% alcohol). You only need 5 or 6 "heads" of flowers to make 4.5 litres of champagne and it will be ready to drink in two or three weeks.

Elder flowers have anti-viral properties, and this is a pleasant and simple way to make a refreshing spring and summer drink.

Ingredients
(Makes 4.5 litres)

  • 5 or 6 heads of elderflower
  • 2 lemons (sliced)
  • 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar
  • 2 tabsp apple cider vinegar

Use plastic bottles rather than glass bottles as there is less risk of explosion - if you neglect them for a few days the plastic crimping band at the bottom will pop out and the bottle will fall over, so you'll know the pressure has built up.

There is no need to scald or sterilise the flowers, use them raw as you want to take advantage of the wild yeasts naturally present on the blossoms - they will do the fermentation for you (without having to add extra yeast).

Method

  1. Pick nice young flower heads, where the flowers have not yet started to drop petals or turn brown. Use them straight away or the scent changes and becomes unpleasant.
  2. Put 4.5 litres of water in a large lidded saucepan.
  3. Shake any bugs off the flowers, add flowers to the saucepan saucepan along with two sliced lemons.
  4. Put the lid on, and leave it for a 24 to 36 hours.
  5. Strain the liquid through a clean cloth or a fine sieve.
  6. Add 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar and two tablespoons of cider vinegar to the elder water and stir it until all the sugar has dissolved.
  7. Pour into the soft drink bottles.
  8. Put the lids on, but don't screw them on tight. At this stage just stand the bottles somewhere you can keep an eye on them. After a few days they will start to make tiny bubbles as the wild yeasts start eating the sugar.
  9. After 1-2 weeks the bubbles will start to slow down. When they look like they have all but stopped, screw the lids on tight and store the bottles somewhere dark and cool.
  10. A few days later they will have formed more bubbles (i.e. self carbonated) and will will ready to drink.
  11. Refrigerate a bottle before you need it, and serve with ice and lemon.

This elderflower champagne is still 'live' and continuing to ferment, so the longer it is stored the more alcoholic (and drier) it will get.

Keep a note of how long it takes for it to suit your taste (so as you know next year!). A word of warning, after 3 months it will be too dry for most people, so make it in small batches throughout the flowering season so you always have a fresh supply on hand.

Avoiding exploding bottles:

Use plastic not glass!

The most important thing is to keep checking the pressure in the bottles, particularly for the first few weeks. All you need to do is give each bottle a 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. Wait until the noise dies down (and be careful of the froth, it might be like a shaken up can of fizzy drink) before tightening up again.

If It won't start fermenting:

Wild yeast gives the best results for elderflower champagne, but it isn't completely. if fermentation doesn't start within ten days (if there are no tiny bubbles at stage then add a tiny pinch of yeast to each bottle(general purpose beer or wine yeast is fine). Leave it to stand for five minutes, then give it a gentle shake to disperse the yeast. If you need to 'rescue' a batch this way, it will tend to end up too dry unless you intervene. Be sure to taste it regularly and, when it's right for you, screw the lids down and move it to the fridge to stop the fermentation process.