I love Elderflower Champagne.
It is an utterly joyful drink! Perfumed, sweet, slightly musky with the mood enhancing addition of soft bubbles! It is the perfect picnic accompaniment. A bottle of this pretty sparkle and a punnet of sun warmed strawberries in your basket, your prettiest dress and fun folk. Now that is what an idyllic English Summer is made of!
It's said that summer starts when the elder's flowers appear, and ends when its berries are ripe in late August. Now isn't that a lovely thought! Could this be the start of summer?
Isn't it truly inspiring that we have these fabulous plants in our hedgerows? I am as yet pretty clueless at foraging but I am fascinated all the same. All the various plants, fruits and roots that we have in our surroundings is mind blowing. It quite literally is Nature's Larder. How many years have I walked passed these dinner plate sized, frothy white heads of miniature flowers, unaware of the wonders that reside there?
They are said to be full of Vitamin C and antioxidants. The berries contain a chemical that can shorten the symptoms of flu and is actually present in the Tamiflu medicine.
The elder can also be used as a natural garden insecticide, by crushing up and bruising the foul smelling leaves you can leave them around young plants to deter aphids and caterpillars. Obviously as they dry out and the smell disappears they need to be replaced.
Farmers used to hang bunches of elderflower above their horses before insecticides were used to rid flies, and dairy farmers used it as they thought it had properties to stop the milk from turning sour.
And Skye folk take heed, people used to wear a small sprig to keep midges away.
I am enthralled by the ancients knowledge, use and reverence of the Elder. It was said to ward off witches! Cottages on the Isle of Man have one planted outside their front doors for just this purpose! And the Fairy King and Queen pass under one on Midsummer's Night Eve.
Well if it is good enough for the Fairy Queen then let's get cracking!
Makes about 6 litres
- 4 litres hot water
- 700g sugar
- Juice and zest of four lemons
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- About 15 elderflower heads, in full bloom
- A pinch of dried yeast (you may not need this) I did...perhaps this is due to when it was picked as I think that does affect natural yeasts that are needed to get the fermentation going?
In a spotlessly clean bucket, pour four litres of hot water, add your sugar and stir until it has dissolved.
Add two more litres of cold water, to make up to six litres.
Grate in the lemon zest...a uplifting activity if ever there was one!
Pour in the lemon juice
Tip in your blossom.
Cover with a muslin for two days, in a cool airy spot. Peek after a day and see how it is doing. It should be frothy on the top. If not then you can add a pinch of yeast to get things going.
After this time, strain through a muslin and bottle. I bottled mine in plastic bottles last year to avoid all the explosions I had heard off. This worked fine for me. You could tell when the gas was getting to a high point as the plastic went rigid. I would then open the tops a little and let it out. I would then decant into pretty, vintage-esque pop bottles (from M&S! SO pretty!) when off on an outing!
But I think it is generally done in flip top glass bottles. I leave the decision to you!
P.S. Mine is busy brewing but pop over to the Big Stove blog to see how it went last year