At the beginning of June each year the elderflowers burst into bloom in our garden and I know that time is of the essence, as the elderflowers will be gone before I have fully stocked our larder for the winter with its wonderful champagne. No yeast is needed because the flowers contain a natural yeast, which produces a sparkling drink, always reminiscent of hot summer days.
- 5 litres of water
- 4 tbs white wine vinegar
- 600 g sugar
- Juice of 4 lemons
- 30 elderflower heads
- 6 glass bottles (I use the ones with hinges and rubber sealed tops)
- Muslin in a sieve or ideally a muslin sieve
- 1 litre jug
- large bucket (ideally with pouring lip)
How to make Elderflower Champagne
Fill a bucket with 5 litres of water. Stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Then add the white wine vinegar and lemon juice. Pick 30 elderflower heads or as many as you can find. Place flowers on the surface of water, leaving stalks sticking upright. These are useful for removing the flowers later. Cover with t-towel or cling film and leave overnight. Wash bottles and put in oven ready to sterilise in the morning.
Next morning – heat oven to 120 C leave on for 5 mins then turn off, allowing bottles to cool gently. Remove the flowers from the bucket. Sieve the liquid through a muslin sieve into a 1 litre jug. Pour into the cooled bottles, if they are still warm that’s fine, but not hot.
Seal and store upright. You will find that within days the liquid will become cloudy. I think this is due to the natural yeast on the flowers which causes the fermentation. We like to open our first bottle at Christmas; by then the champagne will be clear with white sediment at the bottom of the bottle. We usually leave the last glass in the bottle which contains most of the sediment, you can use coffee filter papers to remove it, but this also removes the fizz.
The champagne varies from year to year in terms of fizz, but no matter whether it pops or not, the taste will always take you back to that June day when you bottled it.