A question posted on Jamie Oliver’s Forum asked what is your favourite picnic item? Shortly after I’d suggested the good ol’ pasty another member listed elderflower cordial, recounting memories of Eastern European summers awash with homemade elderflower beverages. There followed various links to pages that gave the recipe and details how to make various elderflower drinks. This immediately reminded me of the fun I’ve had over the years making elderflower champagne and I offered to write up my method of brewing this sparkling summer delight sometimes called elderflower fizz.

Making elderflower champagne is easy:-

  • Go pick half a dozen full elderflower heads ideally on a sunny day when they are most fragrant.
  • Half fill a clean bucket with 2 gallons of cold water (thats 10 Litres for my Euro chums)
  • dissolve 2lbs (1kg) of white sugar into the water
  • shake any debris and insects clear from the elderflower heads and immerse in the water
  • Cut two lemons in half squeeze juice into water and throw in the squeezed half
  • add a splosh (4 tablespoons) of white wine vinegar
  • stir gently and cover with a clean tea towel
  • leave for 24 hours stirring occasionally

After 24 hours, sterilise plastic carbonated drinks bottles – 10 x 1 litre lemonade/pop bottles are ideal – and strain jugfuls of the liquor through a sieve or muslin cloth into the bottles and screw the plastic tops on gently to allow some of the excessive CO2 to escape while keeping other contaminants out.

Leave for a week while the naturally occurring yeast on the elderflower heads begins to ferment with the sugar creating a very weak alcohol content but lots of carbon dioxide – when the fermentation has begun you will see bubbles racing up to the top of the bottles. Eventually the bubbles will slow down.  This is then the time to firmly screw the tops on and leave to build up a little more fizz.

elderflower champagne
Image – judyofthewoods http://www.flickr.com/photos/68888883@N00/3647949351/

Lots of CO2 = Big Elderflower Fizz

NB I emphasise using plastic screw top bottles as personal experience and folk lore have taught me that homemade elderflower champagne causes

  1. Pick elderflower heads in full bloom

    corks just pop out and the contents just overflows to leave a sticky mess,

  2. glass bottles to actually explode embedding shards of glass into the surrounding surfaces and the contents to cover everything in a sticky mess
  3. a combination of both of the above makes for a nerve wracking experience whenever in the space the elderflower champagne is being stored and inevitably ends up in a sticky mess

If you use plastic bottles you will at least notice the stretching and rounding if the pressure becomes too great and can release the gas (or drink it).

One clever storage idea was to use a duvet to cover the bottles to absorb the impact and mop up any unwanted sticky mess

If stored in a cool place and the bottles remain in tact, elderflower champagne can be kept for over a year – until the flowers begin to appear again for the next batch.

Make your own drinks

After making a successful batch of elderflower champagne perhaps you’ll want to try your hand at making elderflower wine and other interesting drinks.