Hi there, the sun is shining today, the sky is blue, and the sweet smell of elderflowers is in the air. And it looks like there’s no better time than now, to share my easy elderflower champagne recipe with you. But, before I do that, I have a confession to make, I don’t like it this hot! Does that make me weird? Not only do I not like it, but my body hates it. Lets put it this way. I bloat and balloon up so much that a baby hippo might mistake me for its sister. And I’m not even exaggerating…well not much anyway!
One of the first signs that summer is sweeping in is when the May blossom begins to bloom, and it’s heady aroma fights for your attention. Whenever I’m out and about with my trusty side-kick, Caber, my head is practically spinning on my shoulders as I try my best not to miss anything forageable or delicious. This week alone, I’ve been out picking elderflowers, hogweed, sweet cicely, wild garlic flowers, nettles and dandelions. My kitchen hasn’t seen so much activity since this time last year, and I love it! And, guess what? I’ve just remembered that I still have a few bottles of last year’s elderflower champagne in the garage. Yes, result!
“I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not.”
Folklore & Fairytales
The Elder Tree (Sambucus nigra) is steeped in folklore and fairy tales and grows in abundance throughout the UK, where you’ll find it in hedgerows, woods, and along roadsides. Folklore would have us believe that the bark was used to create magic wands, and this was because witches were said to merge themselves into the wood of the tree, hence the magic wands! Little did they know that we’d be making champagne from the flowers in the 21st century. Who needs magic when you can have champagne darling.
How to Identify Elderflowers
The flower has delicate creamy, white petals with pinpricks of yellow at its centre and boasts a sweet, flowery scent. This delicate perfume can be tasted in the champagne, giving it a light, crisp flavour.
Make a habit of having a quick sniff of the flower heads as you pick them. Once the flower starts to age, they can smell a bit like cat wee, or give off a more ‘musky’ type of aroma. Avoid picking those heads, as the smell will transfer into the taste of the champagne.
Elderflowers grow in ‘sprays’, and when foraging, you should pick the entire head. You’ll also find it’s an excellent idea to forage in the morning before insects descend on the nectar for their lunch! Never take all the flowers from a tree, always make sure you leave enough behind for the rest of nature to enjoy.
Once you get the flowers home, give them a wee shake, then leave them to lie out for a couple of hours. Any insects will normally crawl away at this stage. Don’t worry about the stragglers, you’ll be sieving the flower heads from the first stage liquid and they’ll come along with them. I suppose you could also boast that your elderflower champagne has protein in it, always a bonus!
So, now that I’ve helped you to identify and find this flower, why don’t you take a peek below for my yummy Elderflower Champagne Recipe and give it a go. And don’t forget, if you don’t want to miss any of my posts, you know what to do…subscribe here!
- 20 large fresh elderflower heads
- 20 ltrs cold water
- 10 unwaxed Lemons
- 2 kg sugar
- 5 tbsp white wine vinegar
- Warm up a ltr of the water and dissolve the sugar in it. Pour it and the rest of the water into a large, plastic or wooden container/bucket.
- Grate or peel the lemon skin and add the zest to the bucket along with the juice of the lemons and the white wine vinegar. Give the contents another good stir.
- Add the elderflower heads (which have their own yeast), making sure you put them in with their heads facing downwards and stems 'poking' out of the water. Alternatively, you could take a fork and use it to take the flowers off, leaving the stalks behind. If you can't find large flower heads, then add another 5 -10 flower heads. Give the contents a gentle stir and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm, dark cupboard for 2 – 5 days, until fermentation has completed. After 2 days check you're champagne, which, at this stage, should be showing a mold on the liquid, around the flower heads.
- Once fermentation is complete, gather another bucket, some air tight bottles, a sieve, jug and some muslin cloth. Make sure you sterilise the aforementioned equipment. Scoop out everything floating on top of the liquid in your container. Fold your muslin into four and place it over the sieve. (I use my husband's old shirts!) and using the jug, sieve the liquid contents into the empty, sterilised bucket/container, leaving about 2 inches of liquid behind. (this allows for any sediment to be left behind) Leave for about an hour, to allow any further sediment to settle.
- Once you've completed the above step, it's time to bottle the champagne. Using your jug, a funnel and muslin cloth, decant the contents of the bucket into the bottles. Remember to leave another couple of inches behind to allow for any sediment. Place your bottles in a dry, warm cupboard for approx 2 weeks, and hey presto…party time. And don't forget my invite. 😉