This is my favourite and most asked about summer creation. This one takes a bit of patience and commitment (well for 2 weeks at least, which is a lot in food terms!) but the results are well worth the wait. This is my so far very successful recipe for Elderflower ‘champagne’, the mild to moderately alcoholic simple summer homebrew, with no fancy equipment required and only 4 ingredients, good results can be achieved by virtually anyone with access to an elder bush… which is anyone that can amble down or stop on virtually any country road during mid June and early July. Elderflower ‘champagne’ is my first and as yet only journey into home brewing, and I’ve been very lucky that for the past three years my batches have turned out pretty perfectly.
I’ll give you my best tips and instructions, and hopefully you’ll be as lucky as me, and won’t need to visit any one of the myriad of troubleshooting forums out there.
Before I began making Elderflower pop in July 2013 I read probably dozens of recipes, which all varied wildly, and lurked on many forums to try and understand the basic principles and the common problems, and how to go about preventing and solving them. The recipe I came up with was a composite of various others, which I adapted to suit my own tastes and conveniences, and it seems to have served me pretty well.
You will need:
- A large non reactive pan or bucket – I use a stainless steel preserving pan.
- A clean tea towel
- 3 large plastic bottles – 2 litre sparkling water bottles are perfect.
- A sieve
- 2 large squares of cotton / muslin
- A jug
- A funnel
- If you want to decant into something more fancy, I highly recommend using 500ml glass Grolsch bottles. The ones with the kilner lids, they will hold the pressure of the fizz just fine.
- 4.5litres of water
- 700g of golden granulated sugar
- 6-10 open heads of elderflower
- 2 organic lemons
A word on picking elderflowers. Ideally it’s better to locate your flowers early in the season, freshly opened, not brown at all and away from any busy roadsides… and even more ideally on a dry sunny morning, as that is when they are most fragrant. Once you have selected the perfect blooms and picked them, please do not shake them, you want to keep all the natural yeasts attached! So, purely by accident, i discovered that the best way to free any little bugs is to keep your flower heads covered in a white cloth or in a white plastic bag. If they are left for half an hour or more you will be amazed at how many creatures will crawl out onto the white fabric… then you can send the creature back to the wild and just use the plants in your brew.
In the large pan, warm 2 litres of water, pour in the sugar and stir gently to dissolve it. Once all the sugar is dissolved, add the rest of the cold water.
Slice the lemons thinly and add them to the water, juice, peel, pips, the lot. Then add the flower head, stir the mixture through and leave to stand, covered with a clean tea towel for 48 hours. Stir it occasionally if you are passing and curious.
After this time, hopefully you’ll notice a few bubbles appearing near the surface around the flower heads and the lemons. That’s good! that means that the yeast is present and doing its thing. If this does not seem to be happening, or if you detect mould, it does not necessarily mean that all is lost – continue with the next steps anyway and see how it goes.
Strain the brew through a muslin lined sieve into another large pan and then use a jug and a funnel to pour the strained liquid into large plastic bottles, do not fill each bottle more than 3/4 full.
These bottles need to be stored at room temperature, and need to be allowed to ‘breath’ at least twice a day. I leave mine on my kitchen surface so that I remember they are there! Over the next two weeks, you should see the liquid become slightly more cloudy and gas begin to build up in the bottles, release the gas regularly to prevent any explosions, and after 2 weeks your brew is ready.
You can refrigerate your elderflower fizz to stop or slow down the fermentation and drink it poured straight from this bottle, but I prefer to take one last step…
Carefully strain the very fizzy champagne through a fine cotton lined sieve, and then decant the finished brew into clean glass bottles (I do not sterilise them, but I do scold them with boiling water before decanting the brew into them) with kilner lids. Be careful to make sure you have bottles suitable for holding a fermented drink, some kilner bottles are designed for preserves like ketchup!
Keep these bottles in the fridge so they don’t explode, and enjoy your wonderfully sparkly, summer fizz in your garden!
I will edit and reblog this in about 2 weeks time when my first batch is bottled and ready for drinking – I’ll add a few more details and hopefully some lovely photos. But I thought it was important to get the basic recipe up now so you can all make the most of the elderflowers bursting into blossom in the hedgerows all around you right now!