There’s been a lot of brewing going on in the Wiggy house in the last couple of weeks. I got Dave a Brew Buddy kit for his birthday so he could make his own beer and I’ve made a couple of batches of elderflower champagne. I promise we’re not big boozers, just enjoy experimenting and it’s fun to have a go at making your own. The truth is we’re misers and resent the price of pub bought alcohol.
A few people had been asking about the elderflower recipe, so I thought I’d wind up the old Thrifty Thursday machine and show you how cheap and easy it is to make your own delicious champagne. My friend Laura (who is my style guru and has amazing pinterest boards – go, follow follow!) made some a couple of years ago & brought a bottle of it over to our London pad. We sat out on our patio shooting the breeze and polished it off one sunny evening and reminiscing on how lovely and refreshing it was made me determined that this was the year I’d give it a go myself.
The key with elderflower is to get it quick – the heads on the trees wilt pretty quickly, especially if it’s hot. Usually the best time is May/June and by July they’ve gone brown and yucky but luckily for all of you UK folk, that’s not an issue (if ever there was a silver lining to all this blinking rain…ZZZzzzz) and there are still a good few healthy heads on trees around. GET FORAGING!
It’s really important to note that elderflower grows on TREES not BUSHES. Some of the plants look similar to elderflower, and some elderflower trees have been cut down to look like bushes, so make sure you have a good sniff to make sure you’re getting the right stuff. It’s likely you’ll get a wee covered weed if you pick from a bush. You’ll know by the smell. Ha.
My foraging for elderflower has been a bit of an adventure. There are lots of trees with the heads on them around our lovely village country roads, but they are often really high & I’m not a climber. My first attempt to find some led my friend Jill and I into a horse field. We were carrying really cute wooden baskets to collect the heads in and so all the horses thought we had come to feed them. In 30 seconds, we had 6 horses surrounding us and we had to climb a big fence to escape. It was REALLY scary and REALLY funny.
Ok, so here’s the jist of the making.
You need about 5/6 heads of elderflower. The pic above shows an average head size. Then you need to add those heads to 4.5 litres of water and 2 sliced lemons.
Leave that combo in a large covered pot for at least 24 hours. I left mine for about 30 hours.
When you’ve done that, sieve the lemon & elderflower out of the water mixture, add 750 grams of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar to the water and mix through until the sugar dissolves.
Once it’s dissolved, transfer the liquid carefully from the big pot into plastic bottles. I used 3 big 2 litre plastic bottles. You’ll fill 2 & 1/2 of the 3 bottles with the liquid.
Set the caps on the plastic bottles for a day, but don’t screw them on.
In the next couple of days you will start to see the natural yeast in the elderflower and the vinegar start to form tiny carbonation bubbles in the bottles. Once you start to see this, you can screw the lids on tight (they are reaaaally tiny bubbles so don’t be disheartened if you think you’ve done it wrong). This gives the liquid a chance to build up the fizz. The fizz is the best bit. Keep the bottles in a relatively neutral temperature area (utility room for us).
Every day or so, go back to the bottles and unscrew the lids and give the bottles a light squeeze to release some of the fizz and encourage carbonation. They will get fizzier and fizzier as the days go by.
Generally I’ve done this for about a week before transferring the liquid to different sized glass bottles and sticking them in the fridge to chill. That way I can give some as gifts in bigger bottles and drink smaller amounts by putting them in smaller bottles. If you don’t drink the big bottles all at once, they lose their fizz. It’s still pleasant to drink, but the fizz is what it’s all about.
This whole process costs less than a £1 (lemons & cider vinegar).
I bet you are all drooling at the thought…right? You better act quick & get foraging before the remaining heads shrivel up and die, I heard we are in for a heatwave soon!