I love this time of year. Mother Nature gives up another of her fantastic freebies. Elderflowers!
Elderflower cordial, wine and champagne. Whoops sorry. Elderflower Sparkling Wine as we have to call it now.
I’m always looking for an excuse to surf the hedgerows for fresh ingredients and the elderflower harvest is a better reason than any. Let me share with you how we make Sparkling Elderflower bubbly. You can download the full instructions from our website.
First you need to harvest nice fresh Elderflowers of course. The Elderflower’s flavour comes from its nectar and thick yellow pollen. Pick your elderflowers May to July, away from a main road on a dry, warm day when the blooms are newly open, early in the morning before the bees and bugs rob all the pollen.
Most Elderflowers have a natural yeast in them, so it is not necessary to add yeast to make your wine. However, some areas are barren of yeast, so if your wine doesn’t kick off in a couple of days, add some Elderflower Champagne Yeast. If you don’t want to take a chance, you can use the sachet of yeast at the beginning.
Never wash your elderflowers or you’ll wash the flavour and the yeast away. Bugs can easily be shaken off.
Follow the Countryside Code. Be careful not to damage the trees and flora while you are stomping around.
Now you have your gorgeous freshly picked flowers, clear a nice big space in your kitchen and we can start.
The #1 Rule of Homebrew is STERILISE EVERYTHING!
(Once sterilised, if you have some cling-film, place some over the top to keep the germs out. Don’t worry if you haven’t got any, just respect the newly sterilised environment.)
Take the phone off the hook so you won’t be disturbed for the next 10 minutes and give your hands one last really good wash.
Empty 2 litres (4 pints) of fresh water into the saucepan and warm it. Add 800g (1lb12oz) of sugar and dissolve it completely. Sugar dissolves in warm water easier than in cold water; it does not have to be very hot.
Squeeze the juice of 2 lemons. You can also use some of the zest if you wish. This is optional to taste.
Add the lemon, zest and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the sugar water. This is now called the liquor.
Use a funnel and pour the liquor into the demijohn or bucket.
Add another 2L (4 pints) of cold water and leave it to cool to room temperature. Be patient. It is very important that the liquor is room temperature before you add the flowers or you will kill/neutralise the yeast.
While it is cooling, prepare the Elderflowers. First, give them a gentle shake to evict the bugs. Don’t freak out. Bugs are good! They show you that the flowers are fresh and are not covered in pesticides. Shake them over a sheet of newspaper or do it outside to make clean up easy. DO NOT wash the bugs off or you will wash away the flavour, the natural yeast and the pollen contained in the flowers.
Cut the florets off of the Elderflower sprays. Removing as much of the greenery as possible. The green stalks can be bitter and are best removed.
Add the blossoms to the cooled liquor. You can add them straight into the liquor, or if you prefer, you can fill the muslin bag with flowers (like making a tea bag). This can make removing the flowers much easier.
If you choose to use the muslin bag, it is important to boil it first to clean and sterilise it. Do not use the sterilising solution for the muslin bag.
Give the mixture a gentle stir and add an airlock so you can watch the bubbling. If you don’t have one, just cover it with a clean muslin cloth to keep the flies out.
Put it somewhere out of direct sunlight where it won’t be disturbed. The kitchen is a good place because it likes to be a little warm (but not too hot). (Actually, I stand mine on a high shelf in the kitchen so we can see what is happening without disturbing it. Just keep it out of direct sunlight.)
That’s it... you’re finish for now.
Now comes the hard part... Keep your hands off of it!
Don't shake it! - Don’t swirl or swish it. - Don’t move it if possible - Don't mess with it!
Let those yeasties alone. Nature knows what she is doing.
After 3 days, check to see if there is a little foaming happening on top of the wine. If there is no sign of fermentation, you can kick start it by sprinkling the sachet of Champagne Yeast on top.
Leave it for another 4 days and then it is ready to be bottled.
Sterilize another 5L/1 gallon container, your siphon tube and your bottles.
If this is the first time you have made Elderflower Sparkling Wine, do not use glass bottles! Use plastic soda bottles instead. Use soda bottles such as Coke or Lemonade bottles, NOT Sparkling Water bottles as they are not strong enough and will burst. Plastic bottles are best! We don’t want any glass grenades!
Siphon your wine out into another sterilized container being careful to leave the sediment behind. Then siphon or pour the wine into your bottles leaving a couple of inches/5cm airspace at the top.
Leave the bottles in a warm place for another 6-8 days to pressurise and become fizzy.
Check out the full instructions to see how to make them fizzy.
After a few days you will feel the bottles becoming harder. After a week or so, they will be rock hard, and it may be wise to release just a little pressure to make sure they do not pop. Do this by slightly unscrewing the lid, just a little bit. We call this burping the bottle.
When they have carbonised nicely, put them in the fridge until you are ready to drink them.
Open them over the sink at first as they can be ‘a little lively’!
Perfect for a hot summer afternoon with friends. Serve in a glass garnished as you prefer. I like to add a few fresh sprigs of mint.