JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Elderflower champagne

No, it's not champagne, and it's not alcoholic, but I don't know what else to call it, because elderflower champagne is its traditional name. And if there's a cross French wine grower reading this, well, think of it as a homage from England - remembering that more than half the fizz grown in Champagne is drunk in England.

Elderflower champagne is completely different to the elderflower cordial which you can make - or, these days, buy in a supermarket. It's cloudy, naturally fizzy (perhaps there are natural yeasts at work, I'm not sure), and not unlike the ginger beer we used to make as children with a starter that quickly got out of hand as it doubled every time you made it (only without the ginger!).

My mother-in-law used to make this delicious drink every summer, in an explosion of sticky bottles. I make it once in a blue moon - I don't know why I don't make it more often, because it's very little trouble, and very delicious. I suppose it's all that collecting bottles for weeks beforehand.

Anyway, I'm giving you the recipe now, even though I haven't started on it, because the elderflower are coming into bloom all over the place. I'll dig out the recipe for elderflower cordial and post it before the season is over - although as you can see from the photograph, it's only just getting under way here.

Elderflower champagne

3 large heads of elderflower
1 lemon
750g white sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
4.8 litres cold water

1 large plastic bucket

Pick three large heads of flower in full bloom. Make sure they're not going over (you can tell by the browning of the petals), otherwise the finished result will taste nasty and not at all flowery. Peel a lemon, making sure not to include any pith. Squeeze the juice. Put the flowers, the lemon peel and juice into a large clean plastic bucket, together with the sugar, wine vinegar, and water. Stir vigorously.

Leave for about 24 hours, then strain and pour into strong screw-topped bottles - fizzy water bottles are ideal. Don't fill them to the top. Leave in a cool place for two weeks. You may find one or two of the bottles explode; there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it, but it means you need to put them somewhere that the resulting sticky mess is easy to clear up. I think they're less likely to explode the cooler they are, and you can take preventive measures by just slightly opening the bottles from time to time to let off the gas - it's easier to see if this is necessary when you're using plastic bottles.

Drink cold. Great for a party on a hot summer's day. Oh, and by the way, it doesn't keep long - although it tends to disappear pretty fast.


Little Foodie said...

I love this drink! Various family members used to make it but I haven't had it for years. We moved into this house just over a year ago and promptly lost an elderflower. I must plant another. Quite right too re: the name! Amanda

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I should look for this. I've never had anything like this.
Sounds lovely, except maybe for the exploding part.

Sara said...

My husband has made this before and it is delicious. We liked it that much that we even tried freezing some of the flower heads, but then promptly forgot about them as they slumped to the bottom of the deep freeze!
You have renewed my thirst for elderflower champagne! Thanks Joanna.
Sara from

Ilva said...

What a beautiful photo and recipe, It's a pity the elder is no longer flowering, I'll have to wait until next year!

Cottage Smallholder said...

I am determined to make Elderflower champagne this year. I always seem to miss the boat.

A lot of my clients make it and freeze it in 2 pint plastic milk bottles for later in the year.

Joanna said...

Funny how so many of us think of it as a nostalgic drink.

Ilva, thanks for the kind words about the photograph - that's a real compliment coming from you!