A few people had been asking about my elderflower recipe this year, and unfortunately the recipe I posted on my old blog server hasn't transferred over to this new one so I thought I would have another go and show you how cheap and easy it is to make your own delicious champagne. My friend Laura made some of this gorgeous fizz a couple of years ago & brought a bottle of it over to our London pad (remember when we lived in London, where the sun actually shines?). We devoured the bottle on our little patio one sunny evening and it has always stuck with me as a moment to remember - so refreshing and sweet. I vowed to learn to make it myself and it has since become a yearly tradition in the Wiggy household.
The key with elderflower is to get it quick – the heads on the trees wilt pretty quickly, especially if it’s hot. Usually the best time is May/June and by July they’ve gone brown and yucky so this is a recipe for you to bookmark or pin for next year.
Image by MotherEarthLiving
It’s really important to note that elderflower grows on TREES not BUSHES. Some of the plants look similar to elderflower, and some elderflower trees have been cut down to look like bushes, so make sure you have a good sniff to make sure you’re getting the right stuff. It’s likely you’ll get a wee covered weed like cows parsley or something if you pick from a bush. You’ll know by the smell. And if you don't know by the smell, you will DEFINITELY know by the taste a little later down the line!
My foraging for elderflower has been a bit of an adventure. There are lots of trees with the heads on them around our town, but they are often really high & I’m not a climber. My first attempt to find some led my friend Jill and I into a horse field. We were carrying really cute wooden baskets to collect the heads in and so all the horses thought we had come to feed them. In 30 seconds, we had 6 horses surrounding us and we had to climb a big fence to escape. It was REALLY scary and REALLY funny. I'm less adventurous now and usually just pull over the car if I see some or shove some into my bag if I'm out walking. Nobody needs to die foraging elderflower.
Ok, so here’s the jist of the making:
+ You need about 5/6 heads of elderflower. The pic above shows an average head size. Then you need to add those heads to 4.5 litres of water and 2 sliced lemons.
+ Leave that combo in a large covered pot for at least 24 hours. I left mine for about 30 hours.
+ When you’ve done that, sieve the lemon & elderflower out of the water mixture, add 750 grams of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and mix through until the sugar dissolves.
+ Once it’s dissolved, transfer the liquid carefully from the big pot into plastic bottles (I have plastic funnels to make this bit easier. Some like these from IKEA would be just the job). I used 3 big 2 litre plastic bottles. You’ll fill 2 & 1/2 of the 3 bottles with the liquid.
+ Set the caps on the plastic bottles for a day, but don’t screw them on.
+ In the next couple of days you will start to see the natural yeast in the elderflower and the vinegar start to form tiny carbonation bubbles in the bottles. You might even see some mild mould, but don't worry - it can easily be skimmed off the top. Once you start to see the bubbles, you can screw the lids on tight (they are really tiny bubbles so don’t be disheartened if you think you’ve done it wrong). This gives the liquid a chance to build up the fizz. The fizz is the best bit. Keep the bottles in a relatively neutral temperature area.
+ Every day or so, go back to the bottles and unscrew the lids and give the bottles a light squeeze to release some of the fizz and encourage carbonation. They will get fizzier and fizzier as the days go by.
Generally I’ve done this for about a week before transferring the liquid to different sized glass bottles and sticking them in the fridge to chill. Having different sized bottles mean I can give some as gifts in bigger bottles and keep the smaller for ourselves. If you don’t drink the big bottles all at once, they lose their fizz. It’s still pleasant to drink, but the fizz is kind of what it’s all about.
This whole process costs less than a £1 (lemons, sugar & cider vinegar) thanks to mother nature - can you believe it?!
If you have any other great elderflower recipes, please do share - I'd love to experiment some more! Make sure you bookmark this recipe for next years elderflower season by pinning it now!