I’ve made delicious Elderflower Champagne since I was in my teens, and indeed my late Grandmother made it in copious amounts for years too. So it’s a family tradition to brew this most summery of country wines at this time of year. Something both my children and I look forward to all year round is sipping Elderflower Champagne in the garden, come midsummer – it’s better than pimms!
The recipe I use, comes from a faded old copy of perhaps the best country wine making book ever printed:
“Home Made Country Wines: Beer, Mead, and Metheglin. Tried and Tested Recipes collected by The Farmers Weekly.” Complied by Dorothy Wise and first published in 1955!
My copy is dated 1979 and I think the book is still available on Amazon! Imnsho it is the only book you will ever need if you decide to become a wine maker yourself.
On to the recipe, which is to be found on page 48 and was sent in by one Mrs Hall, from Austwick, Lancaster, and I reproduce it here in full.
1 gallon cold water
11/4 lb sugar
7 eldeflower heads
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar.
Bring the water to the boil and pour over the sugar; when cold add the flowerheads, lemon slices and the white wine vinegar. Cover and leave to stand 4-6 weeks. Syphon off and bottle, using strong bottles. Cork well as this wine is very fizzy, true to its name.”
Cheers Mrs Hall!
Now for a few pointers here:
STIR while it’s in the bucket, twice a day with a WOODEN spoon – this will stop any scum forming. Metal is best kept away from wine at all times!
My brew NEVER makes it to 4-6 weeks (it tastes sooo good); it can be drunk after a week if you so wish, but it will have very little fizz to it.
You may have noticed there is no yeast in the recipe, that’s because the elderflowers contain a natural yeast that does the job it’s self – hence waiting ’till the water cools to blood heat!
So the longer you leave it, the better; it will, if given time, fizz like champagne! But I bottle it up as soon as it starts to become fizzy in plastic cider or pop bottles, as you simply can’t get the glass pop bottles these days… if you do use glass wine bottles cork loosely if you can, because I have known bottles to explode in the past!!!!
Seriously if you do use a screw lid on a wine bottle – watch out!
DO NOT wash the first flowerheads – you’d wash away all the natural yeasts.
If possible pick on a calm sunny day – yeah right! With our summers they are rare and we have to pick when we can – but don’t pick if it’s been raining.
ALWAYS sterilise your equipment: I don’t use any chemicals, and after 30+ years of brewing using nothing more than hot, almost boiling water to sterilise my buckets, demi-johns (with GREAT care tho) and tubes, I’ve not poisoned myself or anyone else yet… but seriously; sterilise!
Of course if you intend to make a brew with a little extra something to it, pick your flowerheads on a Friday, during a waxing moon, as My Lady Elder is a herb of Venus. Always ask before picking and leave a gift, something the tree can use, please. No crystals or shiny coins… the Dryad will not be able to go down the shop and spend them, or put them on it’s dressing table to look nice. 😉 Use common sense and leave something the tree can use – such as water, milk or a little fertiliser…
So all that’s left now is for you to go out and make some – I assure you, you will enjoy it! 🙂
NB:This post originally appeared on my FB page in 2009.