“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!”
–Dom Pérignon, monk and cellar master attributed to the discovery of champagne, upon first tasting it. If Dom was tasting the stars then this blog post is all about tasting the summer.
In a world where everything is on tap and easily accessible it’s nice to take the time, to be patient and wait for summer in a glass. Elderflower Champagne has been a staple part of our summer for a while now, and while we have the instant gratification of the cordial, the long wait for the fermenting champagne is duly rewarding.
Anyone who knows me will know that I have a soft spot for a glass of bubbles; the crisper and dryer the better, but there is absolutely nothing like the sweet, fresh taste of the bubbles you make as a family. It’s all in the process; you’ve gone out on an adventure to find the ingredients on a warm summer day, picked the creepy crawlies, lost a bottle or two to explosions or had to *burp in order to prevent any further mourning for lost bubbles.
Making Elderflower Champagne is the start of our Summer Bucket List and a sure sign that holidays have begun.
So what do you need to make ‘Summer in a Glass’:
Firstly your adventure begins on a warm and very sunny day. This is actually really important! You’ve probably already seen a lot of the beautiful elderflower trees in full bloom by the roadside, but you must be patient and wait for a really warm sunny day to head out on your foraging expedition as the flowers will be laden down with lovely pollen and this helps with the fermentation and gives it that extra bubble – not so good for hay fever sufferers but I promise it will be worth it.
The boys (all three of them) and I headed out last year on such a gorgeous day. We try to avoid the roadside blooms, as besides creepy crawlies you have road dust and fumes to contend with, so we tend to hike off road to find our loot. Fill a bucket with as many good quality flowers as possible and try to make sure they are fresh.
*Don’t take them all though – you’ll want to come back in the Autumn to forage for Elderberries for your Elder Tonic.
Every adventure has it’s element of danger, be it avoiding the field with the bull or the dreaded hemlock. Elderflowers grow on a bush/tree, but they have a very nasty lookalike; which are also in bloom at this time of year. The hemlock plant is highly poisonous and can give you a very nasty burn if you brush against it’s pollen. It looks very similar to the fanning white blossom of the Elderflower, but a key thing to remember is that elderflowers grow on a bush/tree. Hemlock grows to waist height from the ground. The elderflower also has that beautiful sweet smell of summer that will eliminate any doubt.
So adventure over, let the brewing begin.
We make a batch of cordial as well as champagne just so we can have that instant gratification and because there is nothing like it on a warm summer day mixed with sparkling water and ice.
The recipes below are from Jamie Oliver and from Valerie O Connor writing in the Examiner in 2015. They are both stuck into my little recipe book and are blotted and stained with lemon juice and sugar.
- 15 heads of elderflower
- 500g Caster sugar
- 4 tablespoons quality runny honey
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- Wash the elderflower well, picking out all the creepy crawlies
- Place the sugar and honey in a large saucepan with 1 Litre of water. Gently bring to the boil, until all the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat.
- Finely grate in the lemon zest and add the elderflower upside down, making sure the flowers are completely submerged.
- Squeeze in the juice from one of the lemons, then slice the other and add it to the pan too. Pop the lid on and leave to one side to infuse for 24 hours.
- When you’re ready to strain your cordial, line a fine sieve with muslin over a large bowl (i actually use the muslin cloths I had for the boys as babies) and pour through the cordial.
- Store in sterilised bottles or jars. ( We use Kilner ones we got in both SuperValu and Meadows and Byrne and sterilise them in either the dishwasher or place in the oven at 160C for 10 minutes)
- Dilute with sparkling water or Prosecco and sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour!
Disclaimer!!!! The alcohol in this is very small, but the longer you leave it the more potent it becomes. I have yet been able to leave a bottle in the fridge for any great length of time and I think you’ll be the same.
- 10 x 500ml bottles with flip top lids (Aldi and Lidl do lovely pink lemonade from time to time and the heavy bottles they come in are perfect for the job or you can use the Kilner ones mentioned above)
- Clean plastic bucket
- a funnel
- muslin for straining
- 1 kg sugar
- Flowers from 10 elderflower sprays
- Grated zest and juice of 4 lemons
- 1/2 tsp yeast – (this is down to how sunny the day was when you picked your flowers – more pollen = more bubbles, less pollen means it needs a little yeast to help with fermentation)
- Dissolve sugar in a clean plastic bucket in two litres of just boiled water.
- Top up with three more litres of cold water and leave to cool.
- Add the lemon zest and juice and the elderflowers. (Don’t wash the flowers but be sure to give them a good shake!)
- Stir and cover with a cloth to let air in, but keep out small winged summer visitors.
- Check the mix after three days and if there is no signs of bubbles, sneak in your yeast and give it a stir.
- Cover again and leave for three more days.
- Strain the mix through a muslin into a clean container and leave it to settle for a few minutes before bottling it into your cooled sterilised bottles.
- Close the lids and store the bottles at room temperature for a week before drinking.
- We normally leave them a little longer so we need to burp them from time to time – *this just involves opening the lid, leaving out some air and re closing.
- We’ll pop a bottle in fridge to chill before opening.
And that’s it! I never said it was easy but my is it worth the effort. The refreshing bubbles and that sweet natural taste are unbeatable; it really is the taste of summer. We always gift bottles to friends or break open a bottle with summer salads and a BBQ.
Hope you give it ago.
Have a great weekend.
#elderflowerchampagne #summeradventures #thetasteofsummer #elderflowercordial #bubbles