This is a total beginners guide to making Elderflower Champagne or Sparkling Wine. I think, firstly, that those are just ways of describing this delicious drink that make it easy for newbies to know what to expect. While this is a fizzy drink, and it can explode if treated badly, it’s not really a real champagne in the French sense, but it does have a bit of a kick, to be sure.
That said, it’s delicious, and while I’ve had the equipment for making it for years, this is the first year I’ve actually had a proper go at it because I’ve always been really intimidated by the instructions. So while I’m writing this down in the hope it’ll make it easier for you too, I’m also writing it down so that I have a go-to recipe year after year.
To start with, pick about 20 heads of elderflower on a sunny morning, if possible. If they’re older they can smell like cat-urine – you don’t want that!
In a big bucket, add about 6 litres of water (about 1.5 gallons), 700g fine sugar or brewer’s sugar, and stir together until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the elderflower heads, the lemon and two tablespoons apple cider vinegar and if using, a packet of all-purpose white yeast. Ideally, your flowers will have sufficient yeast of their own, but I generally find that it works better if I add yeast. Stir it all together and cover with a muslin cloth. You want air to reach the mix, but bugs not.
After a couple of days there should be some bubbling on the surface. If not, you can add this yeast at this point if you haven’t already. I usually leave it together, stirring every now and then for about five days.
When you’re ready to decant into the demijohns, remove as many of the flowers as you can, and place a muslin cloth into a funnel. Pour the liquid from the bucket into the demijohn. Sometimes there’ll still be little bits floating in the demijohn. I normally catch these on the next round. Place the bungs in the top with a bit of water in and then wait for the to start bubbling. I find this ridiculously mesmerising!
Keep the liquid in the demijohns for a couple of weeks, or until it stops bubbling, then fold the muslin cloth in half, placing it in the funnel again, so that you can catch any little bits as you decant the contents of the elderflower champagne into the prepared bottles. Add a small amount – about half a teaspoon – of sugar to each bottle before sealing it up.
I’m told you can drink your elderflower champagne within a couple of weeks, but I tend to leave it for next year – my favourite so far was a three-year-old elderflower champagne. It was fizzy, sparkly and bone dry, which I tell myself makes it a little more Keto too.
I hope this makes a nice and easy recipe for you to follow! It seems rather intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite simple and it couldn’t be more summery if you tried.
Here’s the list of equipment I use:
Demijohn (you’ll need two)
Young’s All Purpose White Yeast
Or if you’re starting out, you can find a complete kit here
- 700g White Sugar
- 6 litres Water
- 1 sachet all purpose white yeast
- 20 Elderflower Heads
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar (or White Wine Vinegar)
- Add sugar and water and stir till the sugar is dissolved
- Add the elderflower heads, lemon, vinegar and yeast
- Cover with a muslin cloth (to allow air out, but no bugs in)
- Elderflower heads should have enough natural yeast on them to get themselves going. If after 24 hours there doesn't seem to be any fermentation (no bubbles) add a teaspoon of bread, champagne or white wine yeast.
- Leave to ferment a further 4 days, then lay the muslin inside your regular sieve and pour the liquid out so that it catches all the plant matter in the sieve. This is where I pour it into the demijohn and place the bulb into the cork.
- Put some water into the bulbs - this allows the gas to escape but doesn't let air in and leave for 3 - 4 days while it ferments further.
- From here, add a half teaspoon fine white sugar to your 500ml bottles, and decant the champagne into individual bottles. Check from time to time so that they don't explode, but set aside for 2 weeks.
- Chill before serving - there may be sediment at the bottom of the bottle, so don't pour it out all the way.
I’m sure that someone who’s really good at this might come along and say how I’m doing it all wrong, but hey ho, the end product is a very, very enjoyable summer drink!