This Elderflower Champagne is very close to my heart. Not only am I sharing a taste of my home country, England, I’m also sharing a recipe that I first used for my wedding in Oxfordshire. It’s a low budget, high impact recipe that will have all of your friends (and probably some strangers) queuing up to come over. It’s a true taste of summer.
Recipe: Elderflower Champagne (makes 25 litres)
The strength of this drink is around 6-8 ABV (like a strong beer). You can make it weaker by adding less sugar. The best time to pick the elderflower is usually May – June.
Eight unwaxed lemons (the big, juicy ones from a local farm shop are best)
2.75kg of granulated sugar (separate into two bowls; 2.5kg for the mixture and 25g for the bottling)
25 litres of water (12.5 litres boiled and 12.5 litres cold)
8 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of yeast nutrient
1 sachet of Champagne yeast
Collect the Elderflower
♥ Venture out to the countryside on a sunny morning. You’ll need to choose a day when it has been dry the day before too. You’re looking for elderflower trees – they’re not usually too tall and should have small bunches of elderflower on the branches.
♥ Once you’ve found the trees, you’ll need to collect 50 bunches in a bag or bucket. Cut the bunch from the branch using scissors – you don’t need to leave much stalk. Be careful not to be too rough with the elderflower as you want it to retain the pollen.
♥ Be fussy with which bunches make it into your collection. The elderflower should be white in colour with yellow pollen (the pollen gives you the flavour). If you can avoid roadside elderflower to ensure you get the best taste possible.
Juice and Cut
♥ Back home, zest and juice the lemons into bowls – one for the zest and one for the juice.
♥ Put the bowls to one side. Next, remove the stalks from the bunches of elderflower heads and put the heads into a bowl lined with muslin. Rather than cutting each individual bit, simply gather the stalks of one bunch together and cut. Repeat until you’ve done all fifty. You won’t need the stalks.
♥ Place the zest into the muslin lined bowl with the elderflower. Gently toss together.
♥ Using the excess muslin on the edges, tie it up. Take it to one side and shake. Warning – small insects and bugs may crawl out from the bag! Leave it on the side whilst you do the next bit of this recipe.
♥ If you haven’t already, sterilise the bucket using the sterilising agent.
♥ Boil half the water (12.5 litres) in a large saucepan on the hob. Dissolve 2.5kg of the sugar into the water by gently stirring the mixture. Once it has dissolved pour it into the fermenting bucket and stir well.
♥ Add the lemon juice to the bucket using a sieve.
♥ Give the muslin bag one final shake and then drop it into the bucket.
♥ Next add the white wine vinegar. Stir the contents of the bucket for a minute or two.
♥ Add the remaining 12.5 litres of cold water and the yeast nutrient to the bucket.
♥ Stir well again, then sprinkle champagne yeast of top of the mixture and leave it all for 15 minutes.
♥ Stir one last time and cover the bucket with another bit of muslin or a lid.
♥ Put the bucket in a warm place. A utility space or near a radiator will work well.
♥ After one day check on it. The mixture should be fizzing. If it’s not something has gone wrong! Try adding a pint of hot water, then using a sterilized ladle give it a good stir. Check on it in another day.
♥ Leave the mixture for a further six – nine days. The fizzing should slow down and the mixture should start to change colour. It will become clearer.
♥ If you haven’t already, sterilise the bottles using the sterilising agent.
♥ Next, put a cloth in boiling water for three minutes to sterilize it.
♥ Get one of your bottles and put 10g of granulated sugar in it. Put the cloth in the funnel and then using a clean jug, decant the mixture from the bucket into the funnel to fill the bottle to the top.
♥ Repeat until all of the mixture has been bottled.
♥ Store the bottles in a warm place for one month. Prevent any bottle breakages by periodically slowly releasing the bottle lid to let some of the air out. Only do this once or twice otherwise you’ll lose your precious bubbles.
♥ After a month the Elderflower Champange should be clear. Move the bottles to a cold place – the longer the more dry it gets, though it’s worth noting it has a dry (rather than sweet) taste anyway. Chill the bottle(s) 24 hours before serving.
♥ Pour the Elderflower Champagne into glasses and enjoy a very well deserved drink. FYI: You will be left with some harmless sediment at the bottom of the bottle.
It tastes so good that I’m sure you won’t have any to keep, but if you do it should last about eighteen months.
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