Late spring is a glorious time for the wild food forager, when the flowers are in bloom and the leaves are young and sweet. Wild garlic, dandelions and nettles are all at their prime, but for many the flowers of the elder bush are the highlight of the season.
People have been making champagne from this fragrant blossom for generations, and its easy to see why. Elderflowers contain natural yeast, which when left to ferment produces a delicately flavoured, refreshing bubbly drink that is ideal for quenching your thirst on a hot midsummer day. Elderflowers can also be used to make a sweet cordial, and later in the year the berries can be used to make elderberry wine.
To make your own elderflower champagne, all you’ll need is:
- A gallon of warm water
- 700g sugar
- Juice and rind of 2 lemons
- A tablespoon of white wine vinegar
- 15-20 elderflower heads
In a spotlessly clean bucket, dissolve the sugar in the water, and leave to cool for about 10 minutes. If the water is too hot, it will kill off the yeast and you won’t get any fermentation. Add the elderflowers, lemons and vinegar, give it all a mix, then cover with a cloth and leave to ferment. The natural yeast will begin to do it’s magic on the sugar, transorming it into alcohol and tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. It will need to stand for at least two days for the fermentation to start properly. The mixture can be left anything from two days to a week before bottling.
Once you’re ready to bottle up your champagne, you’ll want to strain the mixture to remove any bits from it. You’ll need to clean, sterilise, rinse and dry your bottles before flling them. The easiest bottles to use are swing-top bottles which are designed to withstand pressure or plastic fizzy drink bottles, but these will generally need to be checked every day to make sure they aren’t building up too much pressure or they may explode.
A week or two later, and your champagne should be ready for drinking!
If you’d like to have a go at learning how to make elderflower champagne, the Smart Future Centre will be making plenty of it at Northdown Orchard, as one of the activities on offer during their Pot Luck Picnic. As well as taking part in the elderflower making workshop you can bring some picnic food and drinks to share, have a tour of the farm, and take part in the raffle.
To make sure that there’s enough chairs for people to sit on and enough space for people to park, the organisers are asking people to RSVP their attendance by phone on 01256 614895 ; email email@example.com ; or joining the event on facebook.