If ever there was a drink that would please the fairies as well as humans, this is it. It’s an old recipe that relies on the natural fermentation of Elder flowers and sugar, and it tastes divine. It also keeps well, and gets more fizzy and alcoholic the longer it sits in the bottle. We try to keep some for Midwinter Solstice, so we can drink something of the sunshine of June in December.
To make it really special, I like to pick the flowers on Mid Summer Morning if possible.
A clean tray, Kitchen roll, a very clean bucket, muslin or tea towel to cover, a pair of scissors, a clean funnel, some muslin for straining the liquid, plus some really strong glass bottles with air tight stoppers (Grolsh bottles are good) or large fizzy drink plastic bottles.
Elderflowers, 750g sugar, a couple of lemons, 2 tbs white wine vinegar and 6L warm water. Possibly a pinch of brewers/champagne yeast if your brew stalls after 2 days.
- Pick 25 Elderflower heads that have been growing in the sun, away from roads and building works. Pick in the morning after any dew has evaporated…they smell sweeter and taste better in the morning than the afternoon.
- Use scissors to snip the stem of the whole flower umbels, and make sure the flowers aren’t full of bugs! Place flowers on kitchen towels laid on a tray. (This way any little bugs can crawl out and not end up in your champagne.)
- Put a couple of litres of warm water in the bucket, add the sugar, lemon juice and vinegar, and stir until dissolved.
- Add the Elder flowers and stir.
- Add the rest of the water.
- Cover with muslin or a large tea towel and keep in a warm place.
- Stir every day.
- If after 4 days you can’t see any fizzing, bubbling or action, mix a pinch of yeast in a cup with some warm water and a spoonful of sugar. Leave for a few hours and then add to the flower water. Re cover, and continue to stir once a day for another 7-10 days.
- Strain through muslin and funnel into sterilised bottles with a small pinch of sugar to each bottle.
- Store in a cool place, away from humans and animals, because there is always the possibility of exploding bottles! This shouldn’t happen if you follow the following tip, but just to avoid the chance of a sticky cupboard or flying glass put the bottles in a box.
Tip To Prevent Bursting Bottles:
Loosen of the screw tops of bottles once a day to release pressure until they stop swelling or bubbling stops.
Tip For Elderflower Champagne Success:
All your equipment must be absolutely clean and sterile. Sterilise glass and metals after washing by boiling water or by heating in the oven. Use a proprietary sterilizing agent, (Milton for example), for plastics.