It’s a glorious summer again out there my lovely frugal brothers and sisters!
… And I’ve just brewed my very first summer batch of magic fizzy potion and its waiting for me ceremonially in the cold… !!
And so I thought to lift your spirits high and to share with you the magic art of how to DIY the very English centuries old hedgerow classic of…
A bottle of 750ml of this delicious fizzy fruity stuff – which technically isn’t really classified as Champagne but as sparkling wine – will easily cost you over £20 when bought in the supermarket. Brewing it yourself however is a child’s game. And so you could very easily brew 20 or why not 40 litres just like the pros and throw a champagne garden super party of your lifetime, inviting the whole neighbourhood on a mad one if you like, and for the cost of a can of diet coke…
To prove my point, I’m going to share with you the ancient secret recipe of fairy dust and kings and witches and long midsummer nights… I suggest though that you start experimenting with a more modest 4 litre batch, and if you like the outcome enough which I believe you will, you can then extend the process to a more royally industrial scale production of party brew yourself.
Shall we get on with it then?
Elderflowers are the beautiful soft white creamy summer blossoms of the queen of summer: Sambucus Nigra. (and which some say smells like cat pee!) The way to the white fluffy treasure involves a pair of scissors and a walk outside to the garden or the nearby park sometimes towards the end of May and until the end of June or there about.
The Elderflowers are literally everywhere when in season though some of them might play it hard to get requiring you to reach out for them!
Just make sure you are not picking any poisonous lookalikes to avoid unnecessary trips to A&E (so if you don’t know what they look like check them out online please!) and only forage for as many as you actually need to avoid ruining summer for other frugal hobbits and fairies out there…
…All you need next before you get to pop some flip-tops is the following ingredients…
- 8 Elderflowers without the stalks. The rule of thumb here is 1-2 large (15cm in diameter) flowers or 2-4 small ones for approx each litre of brew.
- 650-700g of sugar.
- 1 litre of boiling water.
- 3.5 litres of cold water.
- 60 ml of cider Vinegar.
- 2 large lemons, juice and zest.
- A bucket and a long spoon.
- Glass made flip-top bottles or plastic bottles.
- Fine sieve and funnel.
- A teaspoon of baking yeast. (just in case the natural yeasts in the flowers will refuse to kick start the fermentation process)
Next, clean your bucket well, ready your ingredients and then proceed to…
Step 1. Pour the sugar into the bucket and add 1 litre of boiling water on top and then stir well until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Step 2. Add the 3.5 litres of cold water to the bucket.
Step 3. Throw in the Elderflowers, the lemon juice and zest and the vinegar to follow and stir.
Step 4. Cover the bucket with a lid or a towel and leave in room temperature for 48 hours, coming back occasionally to stir ~ 2-3 times a day.
Step 5. After 48 hours the signs of fermentation should be visible: Froth and bubbles everywhere and a distinctive smell of fermenting Elderflowers! But if the surface is still, and although this is a little cheesy, that’s where we kick start the fermentation forcefully with that teaspoon of baking yeast that we kept aside just in case. Throw it in and stir well. Then cover the bucket again and wait another 48 hours stirring every now and again, just as you did previously.
Step 6. Pour the fermenting liquid through the fine sieve and with the help of your funnel into clean bottles. But don’t fill them all the way up! Leave ~3cm in between the surface and the top and then close the tops well.
Now leave for a further week in room temperature whilst making sure to open the bottles briefly at least 2-3 times a day to allow out the internally building pressure. This is a very important step when making Elderflower Champagne. Home brews are famous for their ability to sometimes go Boom!
Step 7. When a week has past move the bottles to the fridge for another 1-2 weeks but keep releasing the pressure inside of each of the bottles just as you’ve done previously.
Step 8. And when the three whole weeks are gone… Ring the bells, drag out the loudspeakers, shout out from the rooftops, it’s party on!
And if you are not in a hurry to drink it all… Your champagne should keep at least a few months if stored in a cool dry place but ideally in your fridge of course… Waiting for another magical midsummer night garden party…