Thursday 14 August 2008

Elderflower champagne

I wrote this article originally for my personal blog in May, before I set up this blog, but I thought it appropriate to include here. All about making elderflower champagne. We have since made a second batch. In total, we have about 50 bottles.

Here's what I wrote in May:

This is something I used to make years ago, then got out of the habit of doing, then two years ago, started making again. Elderflower champagne was something I first tasted as a kid. A family living on the Ravensworth Estate (the big rural area at the southern end of my council ward) used to make it so I was once given a glass to try. Ever since then I have sworn by it!

So, get a large clean bucket (I think the one I used last night was about 20 litres). Pick one carrier bag full of fresh elderflower bunches. (Be prepared to get odd looks from neighbours if you pick it in the streets of London - people there seem to think food grows on supermarket shelves, not on trees and bushes so you tend to get funny looks when picking wild foods).

Fill the bucket with cold water and add the elderflower. Then add the juice and grated rind of 8 lemons. After this, add 3 kg of sugar (yes 3 kg - this stuff is sweet and also needs sugar to brew). Then add 2 table spoons of white vinegar. If like me you completely forgot to buy white vinegar, search your cupboards to find that half used bottle of red wine vinegar left over from making chutneys last year. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the bucket (after this you find a half used bottle of white wine vinegar left over from last year which you completely forgot about but don't panic! Although red wine vinegar is the wrong colour, it still does the job just as well. And given the quantity of water used, the discolouration disappears quickly anyway - well here's to hoping!).

Give it all a good stir and then put the lid on the bucket. Occasionally lift the lid off to smell the fragrance of elderflower.

Leave to stand for two days, stirring occasionally (especially when you want to sniff the fragrance). Then strain and pour into clean, reused Cava or champagne bottles carefully collected at work or from that event I went to in the Lords Whips Office. Do not add yeast! Adding yeast is bad bad bad! Unless of course you want to experience the whole of you champagne brewery self detonating. We discovered this to our costs a few years ago when all 12 bottles of champagne we had made exploded in the wardrobe where we had left them to brew. It was a rather dry year after that. Elderflower self ferments in the right circumstances so adding yeast simply turns these into highly unstable timebombs.

So, having corked the bottles, put wire cages over the top. If you don't, kiss goodbye to your champage. The corks will be blown out with an explosive force that is sure to empty the entire contents of the bottle over the floor.

Leave bottles on their side to brew in a cool room, cupboard, garden shed or garage. You can start drinking it after 10 weeks. Enjoy. This stuff is lovely.

The picture above is of the first batch we made. We made this batch in our flat in London. The other batch is in our garage at our house in Sunniside.

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