I’m very very sad to say that elderflower season is officially over. The season runs from 31st May every year for as long as the flowers last. It would seem as though the flowers in North London all disappeared without a trace over the last two weeks, though there were two sprays of flowers left in my garden just long enough for me to take a couple of pictures of our latest batch of Elderflower Champagne.
This fizzy floral wine is a great way of extending the elderflower season from June to the whole of the summer and beyond. The recipe below will produce 10 litres (or 2 gallons) of this fantastic Elderflower Champagne.
I guess the first place we should start is the science behind the fizzy wine. Essentially, elderflower wine is an elderflower infused sugar and water mix. Natural yeast (or champagne yeast if you choose to use it) feeds off of the sugars in the water, in doing so they begin to ferment creating alcohol and carbon dioxide bubbles! By carefully measuring the ratios of water, sugar and yeast you can control how much alcohol and CO2 is made. The recipe below should get you a fizzy wine that is roughly 11% ABV (provided the yeast behaves itself!)
It’s amazing how incredibly simple it is to brew your own alcohol. Because it relies on yeast the scientific process really isn’t all that different to making bread which, by the way, also produces small amounts of alcohol! Jon has been brewing his own beer for quite a while now (he even has grand plans to grow his own hops plant in our new house) but beyond infusing spirits with seasonal flavours (like this Cranberry Gin) I hadn’t brewed my own alcohol before. Watching the yeast wake up and begin the fermentation process was incredibly exciting.
You may be lucky enough to have an elderflower plant in your back garden, but if you live in the City like I do it’s very unlikely that you will. We had to go off on a bit of a trek to find some and after asking around we discovered that there was a big plant in a park near the house we are trying to buy. So, on a sunny Sunday morning we took a big old bin bag an stuffed it full of elderflowers. You might remember that the first thing we made was this Elderflower Cordial which you can then use to make these Elderflower and Gooseberry Cupcakes.
It’s not just the scientific process which is magical. There’s something quite special about producing something as flavoursome as Elderflower Champagne from very basic ingredients. After all, the most important ingredient, the elderflower, is free and grows on the side of the road and in parks up and down the country! Why spend £30 on a bottle of Bollinger at the supermarket when, for the cost of a small packet of yeast (which you can get on Amazon), some sugar and water, you can produce your own Elderflower Champagne!
- 10 litres of water
- 1600g sugar
- Florets from 30 elderflower sprays
- Zest and juice of 8 lemons
- 5g sachet Champagne yeast
- Enough champagne bottles to store 10 litres of Champagne. Bottles must be able to take carbonated drinks.
- Begin by steralising all of your equipment. This can be done with a chemical steralising powder or by using soapy water and leaving to dry.
- Pour 4 litres of hot water in to your steralised fermentation bucket along with 1600g of sugar.
- Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Top up with the remaining 6 litres of cold water and add the elderflower florets, lemon zest and juice.
- In the meantime, activate the yeast with a little warm water and sugar (according to the packets instructions).
- Add to the sugar water and elderflower, stir well and put the lid on the fermentation bucket.
- Leave to ferment for 2 weeks.
- Strain the elderflower and zest from the champagne. Leave to rest for a further week before bottling in freshly steralised champagne bottles.
- If the champagne has lost a little fizz when you bottle, add a little syrup made from hot water and sugar (no more than 10g of sugar per litre).
If you want to know exactly how alcoholic your champagne is before you drink it, you can take gravitational readings and follow a simple formula. Once you've dissolved the sugar in all ten litres of water you need to take your first reading. Fill the hydrometer tube up to about 2 inches from the top with the sugar water. Insert the hydrometer giving it a little spin as you do so. The hydrometer will slowly sink until it stops and bobs up and down gently. When the hydrometer comes to a stop, look at where the liquid intersects the markings on the hydrometer. Record the gravity reading - this is called your 'Original Gravity'. Repeat this process immediately before bottling. This is called your 'Final Gravity'. To get your ABV, subtract the Original Gravity from the Final Gravity then multiply this number by 131.25. If you like formulas then use the following: (FG - OG) x 131.25 = ABV %
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Even though the elderflower season is over I’ll still be instagramming and tweeting using the #ProjectElderflower hashtag as we enjoy our ten litres of elderflower champagne. It might take us a while to get through it all! If you’ve baked, or brewed anything with elderflower this summer do use the hashtag I’d love to see what you’ve made! If you’re not on instagram or twitter just leave a comment below!