Thursday, 9 June 2011

Elderflower Champagne

Summer is here and elderflower can be seen in parks and hedgerows everywhere. I understand that elderflower is an acquired taste but this homebrew reminds me more of Smirnoff Ice than a perfumed cordial. 
Collecting elderflower is always a family affair and this year was no exception as we were joined again by the Thompson’s and while the children ran riot in the playground the adults collected the big flower heads. Many hands make light work!
Our batch produced 15 bottles of brew which need to be stored safely. PLEASE NOTE: The champagne needs to be kept in a glass swing top bottle NOT a plastic bottle or an old wine bottle with a cork. They will explode.

2kg sugar
12 litres water
8 lemons
40 elderflower heads
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dried yeast.
Makes 15-20 750ml bottles

Dissolve the sugar in 4 litres of water in a large pan on the stove. While the pan is heating up grate the zest and then juice the lemons. Put the sugar water into your bucket and make up the amount of liquid to the 12 litre mark.  You can then add your elderflower heads to the bucket, making sure you have checked for insects. I always give them a hearty shake. Finally add the lemon zest and juice and the vinegar to the bucket and give it a good stir. Then tightly cover the top of the bucket with clingfilm and leave in a cool, dry place for two days.
Elderflowers naturally contain yeast but if after two days there are no bubbles in your bucket adding a teaspoon of dried yeast will do the trick. Leave for a further five days and then strain through a jelly bag lined with a piece of muslin.  You can then put your finished brew into hot sterilised bottles leaving a good inch of space at the top.
Now comes the laborious bit. You need to vent the bottles every 12 hours for the first week followed by every two to three days until you drink it all. Eventually the bubbles will subside but this is champagne after all. My advice is to throw a big party a week after you bottle it and drink the lot. It is definitely best drunk young but will keep up to a year. As it gets older the flavour gets drier.

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