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May is Elderflower Month!


Hi Homebrewers, and welcome to our May 2020 Brewers Blog (BB).


What strange times we are living in, we may still be in lockdown, but the seasons are still rolling around, and what glorious weather we have had, in fact the gardens could do with a drop of rain!


On my daily walk I've been really pleased to see the the hedgerows are full of wonderful elder-flower blossom. Elderflower flowers have a number of uses before they continue their journey to be elderberries so below are a couple of recipes for elder-flower drinks.

The elderflower cordial recipe is great to make with any children or grandchildren. Sparkling elderflower wine is easy to make, and you don’t need any special equipment; just a clean saucepan and some empty lemonade bottles. It's similar to lemonade but with a beautiful floral taste, and because it uses the natural yeast found in the elderflower, is mildly alcoholic (drinkable from about 1.5% alcohol by volume). You only need 5 or 6 “heads” of elderflowers to make up to one gallon of champagne so it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to gather them, and it’s ready to drink in two or three weeks. My wife Kay really enjoys the light, crisp taste and the lower alcohol content makes it the perfect drink to enjoy on a summer evening.


Both recipes are just 5 steps long and require very little equipment so they're great to have a go with a handful of elder


flowers you manage to forage on your daily walk, which makes it almost free!


Enjoy having a go at this and should you have any homebrew queries then don't hesitate to get in touch.


Stay safe and keep brewing!


Paul




Elderflower Cordial


Ingredients

  • 20 heads of elderflowers (best freshly picked in the morning)

  • 1.8 kilo of granulated / castor sugar

  • 1.2 litres of water

  • 2 unwaxed lemons

  • 75 grms citric acid (available in our store)


Method

  1. Rinse the elderflowers to make sure any insects, leaves and plant debris are removed and place in a large bowl. Zest and slice the lemons and add everything to the bowl with the elderflowers.

  2. Place the sugar and water into a pan, bring to the boil, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.

  3. Pour the boiled syrup over ingredients in the bowl and stir in the citric acid. Cover with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

  4. The next day, strain the syrup through a sieve, muslin or filter paper to remove any bits.

  5. Pour into clean sterilised glass bottles and enjoy!



Elderflower Sparkling Wine


Ingredients

  • 5-6 heads of elderflower

  • 4.5 litres of water

  • 2 lemons

  • 750 grms (one and a half pounds) of sugar

  • 2 tablespoons of vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)


Method


  1. Put 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of water in a large lidded saucepan. Rinse the elderflower to clean off any plant debris or bugs, and add the elderflower and two sliced lemons to the pan. Put the lid on, and leave for a 24 to 36 hours.

  2. Strain the syrup through a sieve, muslin or filter paper to remove any bits. Add 750g (one and a half pounds) of sugar and two tablespoons of cider vinegar, stir until all the sugar has dissolved.

  3. Pour into fizzy drinks bottles. Put the tops on so but don’t screw them on tight yet – just stand the bottles in a corner and keep an eye on them. After a few days they will start to make tiny bubbles as the wild yeasts get to work on the sugar.

  4. After one or two weeks the bubbles will gradually slow down. When they look like they have pretty much stopped, screw the lids down and put the bottles somewhere fairly cool.

  5. Give the bottles another few days to generate enough gas to carbonate themselves, and you’re set – just refrigerate the bottle before you need it, and serve over ice with lemon.


Paul's Top Tips ...

  • Pick nice young flower heads, where the flowers have not yet started to drop petals or turn brown. You’ll may get some pollen on you, but don’t worry – it doesn’t stain. Use the flowers promptly or the aroma will change and become unpleasant. There is no added yeast in this recipe. The flowers are not scalded or sterilised, which leaves the wild yeasts naturally present on the blooms to do the fermentation for you.

  • Plastic bottles are better than glass because you can give them a squeeze to see how much pressure has built up, and if you forget them for a few days they won’t explode – the crimp at the bottom will pop out instead, and the noise of the bottle falling over will let you know.

  • The elderflower champagne is still ‘live’ and continuing to ferment, so the longer it is stored the more alcoholic (and drier) it will become. Keep a note of how long it takes to be perfect for your taste, and bear that in mind for following years: by three months old it will be too dry for most tastes, but unless you make large quantities it’s unlikely to last that long.

  • The trick with this method is to keep checking the pressure in the bottles, particularly for the first few weeks. Just give each bottle a good squeeze – if you can’t squeeze the sides in at all, then the pressure is getting too high. When this happens very gently loosen the cap until you hear gas releasing, and wait until the noise dies down (be careful of the froth) before tightening up again.

  • Wild yeast gives the best results for elderflower champagne, but it isn’t 100% reliable. if fermentation doesn’t start within ten days (tiny bubbles at stage 6) then add a tiny pinch of yeast to each bottle. Leave to stand for five minutes, then give it a gentle shake to disperse the yeast. There’s no need to use fancy yeast because we’re not trying to produce a high-alcohol drink: bread yeast is fine, as is general purpose beer or wine yeast. If you ‘rescue’ a batch this way it will tend to end up too dry unless you intervene. Taste a little from time to time and, when it’s just right, screw the lids down and move it to the fridge.


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