There is still time to pick elderflower heads from the hedgerows for this gorgeous drink. Shake off insects but don’t wash as you will remove the natural yeast from the flowerheads. And make sure it’s elderflower heads you pick as the flowers of cow parsley, ground elder (no relation to elderflower) and even hogweed (which is poisonous) look similar.
Elderflower will have a woody stem as it is a large shrub/small tree rather than a herbaceous plant. If you miss the opportunity to pick the flowers don’t worry, the following berries can be used for wine and syrup too but more of that later.
- 20 elderflower heads
- 1 kg sugar
- 2 lemons (juice and zest)
- 10 litres of water
- 2 tablespoons of vinegar
You will also need:
- Large bucket (to hold at least 12 litres)
- Plastic bottles (don’t be tempted to use glass as a build up of gasses can cause them to explode)
- Boil 2 litres of water, pour into bucket and dissolve the sugar in it.
- Add the remaining 8 litres of cold water, lemon juice and zest.
- Add elderflower heads and vinegar and stir gently.
- Cover with tea towel and set aside for 24 hours stirring gently every 6 hours or so.
- After 24 hours, if it hasn’t started to bubble, add yeast mix.
- Set aside for a further 5 days, stirring gently occasionally.
- Strain through a sieve and muslin and put into bottles.
- Leave for 8 days, checking the bottles occasionally and letting out excess gas gently if bottles are expanding.
… and remember, although very refreshing and easy to drink, Elderflower Champagne is slightly alcoholic!