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Archive for the ‘Elderflower Champagne’ Category

Rushbrooke Elderflower Champagne goes with a bang!

In Elderflower Champagne, Hugh Fernley Whittingstall on June 20, 2009 at 7:27 am


Look back over previous entries on Running in Suffolk and you will see that we recently made Elderflower Champagne following a Hugh Fernley Whittingstall recipe from the tv series River Cottage.

I had read that Elderflower Champagne tends to be quite explosive and that many a bottle can explode. With this in mind we moved our dozen bottles into the garage just in case.

Having never tried it before it was with some trepidation that the time came to open the bottles. We used the swing stopper type bottles which you can buy in bulk from a number of suppliers on the internet.

We took the bottles into the garden to open just in case which was wise as these open with the force of extreme champagne. You could take bottles of this into war as a weapon the force is considerable. Our first attempt came as a shock and most of the drink went over everyone in sight and just a little bit of foam was left in the bottle.

Practice has led us to an elderflower champagne opening technique of needing more than two hands. When the swing stopper is opened you need to push down hard and allow a minute for the pressure to be released very slowly.

By this method as long as you have the glasses ready with ice you are ensured a lovely summery flowery drink. The verdict is yes, when can we make some more. I believe there is only a low level of alcohol in this drink but many who have tried have said it was strong.

I would say it is fairly sweet rather than a dry champagne.

Total cost approx £3 for a dozen bottles. The main cost of our Rushbrooke Elderflower Champagne was the sugar and lemons.

Elderflower Champagne

In Elderflower, Elderflower Champagne, Rivercottage, Rushbrooke on June 5, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Elderflowers

Folk-lore, romance and superstition centre round this English tree. Shakespeare, in Cymbeline, referring to it as a symbol of grief, speaks slightingly of it as ‘the stinking Elder,’ due to the scent of its blossom. However at this time of the year the English hedgerow is more handsome for its appearance along with dog rose and hawthorn.

The word ‘Elder’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon word aeld.

On a run from Bury St Edmunds through the village of Rushbrooke I sought out a good source of elderflowers. Last year watching the Hugh Fernley Whittingstall programme River Cottage we were taken with giving the making of some Elderflower Champagne a try.

The tv programme made it look easy to make and when Hugh and his mates came to try it the bottle lids were flipped it certainly reacted like champagne with a bang and lots of gushing fizzy drink which all seemed to enjoy.

So Elderflower Champagne was added to the to do list. The end of May / beginning of June is the perfect time in Engalnd to pick Elderflowers. I picked mine out at Rushbrooke on a quiet minor road but to be honest you can of course spot elderflower growing in the town centre. This is certainly true in Bury St Edmunds and many of the car parks which have surrounding bushes often have large elderflowers bushes.

To be on the safe side I picked elderflowers high up in the bush (well above dog height) and facing into the fields . The recipe only required around 30 heads but to be on the safe side I probably picked around 50 heads. A pair of scissors was handy to clip them into a bag.

Some say you should pick elderflowers when they are young but fully in bloom. That the best time to pick them is in the morning and they should smell fragrant and like bananas. They are past their best if they smell like cats wee.

On arriving home I choose to cut away as much of the stalk as I could. Not entirely sure if this matters but just a personal decision. Give your bag of flowers a good shake and you will have some small insect bugs that have returned home with you. These are fairly easily removed but the odd bug won’t kill you if you miss it.

There are many recipes on the internet for makng Elderflower Champagne. I followed this one below from the River Cottage site.

Makes about 6 litres

Ingredients

  • About 24-30 elderflower heads, in full bloom
  • 2kg sugar
  • 4 litres hot water
  • Juice and zest of four lemons
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • A pinch of dried yeast (you may not need this)

Put the hot water and sugar into a large container (a spotlessly clean bucket is good) and stir until the sugar dissolves, then top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total.

2. Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.

3. Cover with clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. Take a look at the brew at this point, and if it’s not becoming a little foamy and obviously beginning to ferment, add a pinch of yeast.

4. Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further four days. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised strong glass bottles with champagne stoppers (available from home-brewing suppliers) or Grolsch-style stoppers, or sterilised screw-top plastic bottles (a good deal of pressure can build up inside as the fermenting brew produces carbon dioxide, so strong bottles and seals are essential).

5. Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for a further eight days before serving, chilled. The champagne should keep in the bottles for several months. Store in a cool, dry place.

History of Elderflowers

Folk-lore, romance and superstition centre round this English tree. Shakespeare, in Cymbeline, referring to it as a symbol of grief, speaks slightingly of it as ‘the stinking Elder,’ yet, although many people profess a strong dislike to the scent of its blossom. However at this time of the year the English hedgerow is more handsome for its appearance along with dog rose and hawthorn.

The word ‘Elder’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon word aeld.

The 8 days is up on Friday the 12th of June so thats when I try Elderflower Champagne for the 1st time as long as the bottles don’t explode in the meantime! Then we will see if the effort has been worth it.