Easy Homemade Elderflower Champagne (Plus Nonalcoholic Cordial)
Elderflower Makes Unique and Delicious Drinks
The aroma of the elderflower is honey-lemony sweet, and you can use the flowers to make unique and delicious drinks. The process is relatively simple. The flowers themselves are easily identified—and it doesn't take much time to pick a few, plop them in water, add a few basic ingredients and bottle their essence.
In this article, you'll find everything you need to know:
- Elderflower champagne recipe
- Elderflower cordial recipe (nonalcoholic)
- Useful tips and safety information
- How to pick elderflowers
- Information about elder trees
- Bonus recipe for elderberry wine (video)
- Timeline: You should be able to produce a vintage product within 7 to 10 days.
- Yield: This recipe makes roughly eight one-litre bottles.
- Alcohol content: 3–5% for the champagne (The cordial, of course, is nonalcoholic.)
- Important note: Bear in mind that the best results come from having everything you use as clean as can be. That means that all equipment must be sterilised, including bottles, buckets, and demijohns. Be extra careful!
- 8 litres warm water (to dissolve the sugar)
- 1 kilogram white sugar
- 5 lemons
- 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 10 large elderflower heads, stalks removed and cleaned
- Pinch yeast
- Pour warm water into an exceptionally clean large pot or container.
- Add white sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Zest the lemons. Then cut the lemons in half, squeeze and juice. Add the zest, juice and lemon halves to the sugar-water mixture.
- Add white wine vinegar.
- Add the flower heads and gently stir the whole pot for a couple of minutes until mixed.
- Cover with a clean muslin or towel and leave to ferment in a safe, cool space.
- After 24 hours, check for telltale signs of fermentation: bubbles and foam activity. If no activity (bubbles at the surface), add a pinch of yeast if necessary.
- After 24 to 48 hours, remove the flowers.
- Allow the mixture to continue fermenting for a total of 5 to 7 days. (If using a hydrometer, wait for it to drop to 1010 for 2 days then sieve and decant into strong sterilised glass bottles. Fermentation will continue, so release excess pressure in the bottles by turning the screw top every so often. If you want to be extra safe, use plastic screw top bottles OR leave to ferment in the bucket or demijohns before bottling.)
- After 1 week, you should have your champagne. Leave longer if you wish, up to 3 months. Serve chilled from an ice bucket.
- Please read through the useful tips below for more advice and information.
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Tips for the Best Elderflower Champagne
- How to sterilise the bottles: The bottles should be sterilised at 75 degrees. Clean thoroughly and then pop into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
- For extra flavour: Add one or two extra flower heads (but be prepared for more fizz during fermentation).
- For stronger flavour: Use 6 to 7 litres of water (instead of 8).
- Substitutions: You can substitute dextrose sugar for white sugar, and you can use a brewer's barrel instead of a pot or bucket.
- How to remove the elderflowers: After 24 to 48 hours, you should remove the elderflowers. To do this, use a fork or strain through mesh.
- If there is no fermentation: Move your champagne mix to a warmer place. Add a pinch of champagne yeast. You can also use baker's yeast if you can't get hold of the champagne yeast.
- If fermentation stops: Add extra yeast (champagne yeast is best). Or pop 7 grams of sugar into each litre bottle before bottling.
- To slow down fermentation: Place the bottles in the fridge.
- To clear murky champagne: Use special brewer's tablets (I used Campden's). Follow the package instructions for tablet use.
- How to make the brew less sweet: Leave the bottles longer. The longer you leave them, the less sweet the brew will be, as sugar turns to alcohol and the champagne becomes 'dry'.
- If the ferment turns vinegary: This indicates that the alcohol has oxidised and you have made a type of wine vinegar! If it tastes good, you could use it for dressings. Oxidation may have occurred because the bottles weren't sterilised properly.
- If you see mould: Remove it, siphon off the liquid into a sterilised bucket or demijohns, add a Campden tablet to kill off the nasties, leave for a day, add more yeast and leave to ferment.
- How to use a hydrometer: If you are using this device to check the specific gravity, make sure it reaches a consistent 1010 before bottling. The specific gravity will gradually drop from an initial high.
- To keep the fizz active: Chill the bottles well before serving. Open the bottles slowly.
Fermentation produces a build-up of bubbles as the yeasts break down the sugars. By following these safety tips you should be able to produce a great drink and stay safe!
- Leave an expansion gap at the top of the bottle when decanting your brew.
- Keep the bottles safely stored in a well-aired, locked shed or space.
- Put the bottles in bags and then in cardboard or wooden boxes.
- Check daily or twice daily for pressure: Release the screw top slightly if the pressure is high and the bottles are 'tight' (aka 'burping the bottles').
- Do not let children or pets near the bottles.
Elderflower Cordial (Nonalcoholic)
Cordial is made in much the same way except there is no yeast involved and therefore, in theory, no alcohol present in the end result!
- 10 elderflower heads, cleaned in water
- 1 kilogram white sugar
- 5 lemons or oranges
- 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 8 litres boiling water
- In a pot, add cleaned flower heads, sugar, and lemons or oranges and vinegar.
- Pour boiling water into the pot and stir until mixed.
- Cover securely and place in a cool, safe space. Give the mixture 1 day for fusion.
- Strain and pour into sterilised bottles. Chill.
- Enjoy with sparkling water, ice, lemon and fruits!
How to Pick Elderflowers
People out under a blue sky in the English countryside picking elder blossoms—what could be a more idyllic scene?
It sounds charming and it's a fun thing to do, but there are a few common-sense things you need to know. First, you'll want to find a dry, sunny day (yes, we do have them in the UK, about eight times a year). You'll also need a basket or bag to collect the flowers.
You'll need about ten heads for this recipe, that's all.
The Best Way to Pick Elderflowers
- Choose a mature tree away from the road so that the flowers are pollution-free.
- Pick in the early morning when it's dry and bright, if you can. Full sun is best.
- Pick flower heads that look fresh and are not discoloured or half-eaten,
- Get rid of insects and bugs, but do not shake the flowers.
- Try not to decimate the tree by picking too many flower heads from a single tree.
- Don't disturb nesting birds.
- Watch out for bees and wasps!
About Elder Trees
Elder trees, Sambuca nigra, are common all over Europe and will grow happily by the roadside, in a hedgerow, on wasteland, or on the edge of a wood. You can test to make sure you've got the right tree by taking a leaf, crushing it and smelling the strong savoury/smoky odour. The flowers have a sweet honey-like scent bordering on the fruity. In September and October, you'll see the large bunches of dark elderberries weighing the tree down as the season progresses. From these comes the rich juice, said to be medicinal.
How to Make Elderberry Wine
© 2012 Andrew Spacey