June/July is Elderflower season and that is super exciting in my household. For a few magical weeks elder blooms grace us with their presence and they don’t hang around for very long.
Not only do we get to taste super fresh elderflower cordial but also the annual process of home brew elderflower champers begins.
This is where that elderflower cordial helps – a drop in the bottom of a glass of prosecco or in a G&T’s is to die for!
I love going for a walk and filling bags with beautiful elderflower blooms. We often take friends and kids as it’s a wonderful experience. I look around our local parks, along the canal and some good places to find them is The Parkland Walk from Finsbury Park to Highgate.
When foraging we need to follow a few rules – don’t clear a tree of blooms, just take a few per tree. Remember how much you need for your recipe and try not to take too many extra – other foragers may be behind you and mother nature needs you to leave some behind so the berries can come.
Once you have transported your bounty home you need to act fast, these pretty blooms don’t last long before they start wilting.
You will need to wash your flowers and check them over ensuring there’s no extra protein: bugs. Dead flowers won’t do either so discard these.
Now split your flowers for champers and for cordial.
The champers process isn’t a quick one, but is worth it. Firstly, you will need to work out how much you want to make and split it between your containers – I use large tubs from our restaurants.
Place your ingredients into the buckets: sugar, citrus rind (use a potato peeler to thinly remove the rind from the lemons), juice & vinegar, top with the flowers and then add the water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. I make enough for around 24 75cl bottles.
Place your bucket(s), somewhere they won’t be disturbed, room temperature is best and cover with a loose tea towel.
Give your brew a stir twice a day (once is fine if you are out for the evening) after a couple of days you should have a gentle fizz, if you don’t, you will just need to add a little yeast to give it a push.
Do this for 10 days, after that it’s straining time.
You’ll need some muslin cloth, a big sieve or colander and jug to strain into.
I use champagne bottles from www.balliihoo.co.uk but if you don’t want to spend the cash you can use old spirit bottles or even plastic pop bottles.
Once your bottles are full lid/cork them firmly and store them somewhere that isn’t too warm or too cold.
If you aren’t using special champagne bottles you will need to check on your brew regularly an may need to let a little gas out to prevent any explosions.
It is best drunk after a year as the flavours will have developed well but if you’re too impatient you can leave it for 6 months. I recommend holding out, once you get into a circulation groove you won’t feel so impatient as you can celebrate making this year’s brew with a tasty year-old vintage!