There's something quintessentially English about the heady scent of Elderflowers in the summer and the refreshing homemade drinks you can create. Flowering in early summer, they are common particularly in the south of England. Keep your eyes peeled and you'll notice them everywhere. I picked mine from a local park while my kids played on the swings.
Elderflowers in full bloom at my local park
I had two options for the flowers I collected. Non alcoholic cordial or an alcoholic sparkling 'champagne'. I decided to give the sparkling a go with great success.
Time: 45 minutes preparation and several weeks fermenting.
Elderflowers up close
Materials 15-16 Elderflower heads
4 litres hot water
2 litres cold water
Zest and juice from 4 lemons
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Large pot, bucket or suitable container
Bottles (plastic screw cap, glass with champagne corks or Grolsch style bottles with a flip lid)
Pick Elderflower heads in full bloom.
Disolve the sugar in 4 litres of hot water.
Add two litres of cold water.
Add the lemon juice, zest and vinegar
The drink would be too sweet without a little lemon
Place the Elderflowers in and mix well
Add the Elderflower heads. You don't need to remove the individual petals as everything will be filtered later.
Stir well, cover with a muslin and leave in a cool dark place for two days.
Check your concoction and if it's not starting to foam slightly add a pinch of yeast. You won't see bubbles at this point, only later when it's bottled.
Leave for a further four days.
Remove the large heads of elderflower.
Place a muslin into a sieve and then pour the mixture through. This will remove any stray flowers and other natural 'bits'.
Decant into bottles for 1-2 weeks and then serve chilled.
I experimented with different bottles and found that the best bottles to use were empty plastic bottles that you would buy fizzy drinks in. You may need to release the pressure a couple of times while it's fermenting.
The Elderflower champagne will be alcoholic with the strength varying depending on the batch of flowers you've used.
I served my wonderfully fragrant and lightly sparkling champagne at a summer party and everyone came back for more. It would be lovely to make for a wedding too.