Home brewing

How to make Elderflower Champagne

It takes just days to make, tastes wonderful and can run from very mildly alcoholic to fully fledged party drink.

Here’s how to make a gallon (8 pints) of your own elderflower fizz. 

Equipment

Firstly you will need some simple equipment:

A bucket or large food grade container that will hold all 8 pints.

Smaller Bottles to hold the fizz under pressure. I usually go for a few 2 litre PET beer or fizzy drink bottles. Glass bottles are best avoided because of the danger of explosions. 

The one piece of specialist kit I recommend is a siphon tube. This allows you to fill the pet bottles with ease.

Ingredients

The ingredients are nothing more taxing than 750g of granulated sugar, 2 unwanted lemons and about 12 elderflower heads. This may be too much elderflower if the heads are very big. 

Method

Now when you are picking your flower heads, use your nose. Fresh sweet smelling heads are wanted, but be careful because older heads take on a distinctly unpleasant cats pee smell. Avoid these or your final drink will also smell of cats pee.

Bring your elderflower heads home and boil up a couple of pints of water and use this to  dissolve the sugar in the bucket. Now add a further six pints of cold water and allow to cool down.

Meanwhile knock any insect life out of the elderflower heads and cut away as much of the green stems as possible. Now use a piece of muslin to create a large ‘tea bag’ loosely filled with the elder flowers.

Once the water is cooled to below body temperature, add the juice from the lemons and the elderflower teabag. Another piece of muslin can be used to cover the bucket. 

Within 48 hours you should see bubbles rising to the surface. This is the wild least that was on the elderflowers turning the sugar into alcohol. If there are no bubbles wait another 24 hours and check again. If there are still no bubbles it’s time to add some yeast to get things working. Champagne Yeast or cider yeast are the best options but any sachet of wine makers yeast will do. Apparently you can use a breadmaking yeast but I have never tried this and I suspect the Bready flavour that this might impart will not work beautifully with the elderflowers.

Leave the yeast to work its magic in the bucket for a week and then it is time to siphon off your fizz into the PET bottles.

Now the fizz can be cooled in the fridge and drunk, but be warned. There is still yeast working away at the sugar, turning it into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. Check the bottles daily and if they are very hard to squeeze, you must open the top for a second to let some pressure escape; otherwise there will be an explosion of sticky elderflower juice all over the kitchen walls. 

Notes

Firstly remember that this will end up with a product that you will be drinking so when deciding on which bucket to use, use one designed specifically for food grade items.

Picking your elderflowers early in the morning seems to result in less of the cat  pee smell that we mentioned earlier.

If you are unsure about how many elderflower heads to use her on the side of caution. You don’t need that many elderflowers to flavour the gallon of wine.

I really mean what I say about the plastic bottles. Having elderflower champagne bottle explode in your store room cupboard makes a horrible mess so use strong pet bottles and check the pressure regularly.

Don’t leave it too long before drinking. The alcohol content just keeps rising but the flavour deteriorates after just a couple of weeks. Elderflower fizz is best drunk when it is young. 

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