Essence of Elderflower

My late Aunty Kathleen used to make wine and had won awards for her Elderflower Champagne.  Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get the recipe from her before she passed away but each year I see the elderflowers, I’m reminded of her so this year I decided to have a go at making some elderflower champagne.

Now, it should probably be called pressé as it’s not technically allowed to be called champagne since it’s not made in the Champagne region of France from the appropriate grape varieties, but since it won’t be travelling any further than from my fridge to my glass, I think I’ll run with it!

Whilst scouring Google for recipes, I also came across an elderflower liqueur recipe so added that to my picking list.  We have a Sambucus Nigra bush in our garden so I used the flowers from that for my ‘champagne’.   In the field next to our property is a large, wild elderflower bush, where I picked my flowers for the liqueur.  During my research, a couple of top tips were to use bushes that weren’t next to main roads and to pick flowers from above the leg-cocking height of a labradoodle!

I picked this recipe from www.tinandthyme.uk as it didn’t have tonnes of sugar in it.  Before I went to forage for the flowers, I made the water and sugar solution for the ‘champagne’ so it had time to cool, then I headed off out just before midday on a sunny Thursday to pick my flowers.

Once shaken to remove as many insects as possible, I snipped the flowers off the pink elderflowers and added them into the sugar and water solution, together with a couple of lemons, halved and squeezed and some apple cider vinegar and gave it all a good stir.  After covering with a tea towel, the concoction was left to soak for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, onto the liqueur. 

The recipe for this is from www.talesfromthekitchenshed.com . Again, after shaking the insects out of the flower heads, I snipped off the flowers into a sterilised mason jar and topped with some slivers of lemon zest.  Next, the jar was filled to the brim with vodka.  It was then placed in the cupboard under the stairs for 4 weeks to infuse.

Back to the champagne!  After the 24 hours was up, the liquid was strained to remove the flowers and any bugs and poured into screw cap bottles, loosely done up, and left for a couple of weeks at room temperature to allow the liquid to ferment using the natural yeasts in the flowers.  Mine took a couple of days to liven up but once they were up and running, they needed ‘burping’ a couple of times a day.  After 2 weeks, the lids were tightened and the bottles moved to the fridge for a couple of weeks to mature.  And now it’s ready to drink!

This is not alcohol-free, it’s about 2-4% apparently.

The next job was to finish the liqueur.  The liquid was strained through a cloth and then the sugar syrup added before putting into sterilised bottles and back to the cupboard under the stairs to mature for a couple if months.  I’m looking forward to this, a taste of summer, in the bottom of a glass of prosecco in the autumn!

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