Elderflowers can be seen all around the countryside at the moment. Be sure to pick the ones away from roads though as they will be dusty and coated in exhaust fumes. Try to pick the flowers around noon/early afternoon when they will be in full bloom. I first made this last year and, had I have known it was going to be so tasty I would have made a lot more. So this year I am ready for action, I hope to make enough to last until Christmas!! This is following Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and River Cottage's recipe just tweaked a little bit to suit my own tastes. I use sterilized screw-top wine bottles to bottle it in, sometimes the pressure that builds can blow the top off the swig-top bottles which I learned last year.
Makes about 6 litres:
4 litres of hot water and 2 of cold water
15 large (fully-bloomed) Elderflower heads
The zest and juice of 3 lemons
The zest and juice of 2 Oranges
- Dissolve the sugar in the hot water in a suitable sized container (a new very clean bucket is best) and top up with the cold water.
- With a speedy peeler peel just the zest off the lemons and oranges and squeeze the juice out into the bucket, add the zest and the white wine vinegar too.
- Cut as much of the stems off as possible on the flower heads and add the flowers to the bucket.
- Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a cool airy place for a few days. Take a sneak peak at this stage and it should be fermenting (bubbles and foaming a little) if not you can add a pinch of dried yeast but it should be fine as the flower heads contain natural yeast.
- Leave covered for another few days to ferment and then strain in a sieve lined with a muslin cloth and funnel into your sterilized bottles and screw the lids on tightly. Allow to ferment for 2 weeks before serving chilled.
- I placed my bottles into a spare bath tub to ferment as sometimes a bottle could blow its top with the build up of pressure. The champagne will keep in the bottles for a year.