Making Elderflower Champagne

Making Elderflower Champagne is something that we look forward to every year. The Flowers can start to come out in late May but normally you won’t start seeing them until June.

Once they are out we get to work brewing hundreds of litres of this stuff, which is great fun to do and really tasty. We brew enough to make sure we can bring some along for each of our Autumn walks.

Elderflower champagne is a lovely refreshing Summer drink. If you stick to the simple recipe then it will not get above 2% ABV, so you can enjoy a fair few glasses in the sun. If you wanted to get a bit tipsy though; it makes a great vodka mixer ;).

It is worth noting that we only use the common black elder, Sambucus nigra for anything we make to consume, all the others contain cyanide inducing glycocides which you do not want to eat. Almost all the elder you find growing in the wild in the UK will be the black elder, but there are now numerous ornamental varieties in peoples gardens and around towns.

Identifying the Elder Tree is fairly easy when the flowers come out.

There are a number of lookalikes but Elder is so common it should not take you long to find some.

As well as the flowers it has fairly distinctive bark as shown in the video on the left.

Once harvested the flowers quickly develop the distinct smell of cats wee!

The recipe I use is the simplest one I can find anywhere, but it seems to work as well as any others I have tried.

You can add champagne yeast to make it a bit stronger, but that will also make the mixture more explosive. If you do use champagne yeast then you will need to burp the bottles daily to make sure they don’t explode.

We’ve tried messing around with the recipe, adding other flavours such as raspberry but none of those mixes have worked anywhere near as well as the plain Elderflower Champagne recipes.

Sterilisation

Sterilisation of the bins bottles and any tools used is easy, just get some sterilising powder or milton, add it to some warm water in the bath and immerce everything you use in it for about 10 minutes and let them dry.

You really don’t need to worry too much about contamination with elderflower champagne though as it has such a short shelf life anyway.

The Ingredients for roughly 10 Litres of my simple recipe are as follows.
10 Litres Water
8 Large Elderflower Heads late in the season, or 12 Large Elderflower Heads when they first come out.
1kg Sugar (more if you want it sweeter. I like mine fairly dry)
4 Lemons
2 Table Spoons White Wine Vinegar.

You will need

A Plastic Bucket
A Sieve and muslin
A Funnel
A Grater
A Long Spoon
Some Sterilising Powder/Milton
Some Empty Plastic Bottles

The (very simple) method; as follows.

Put the Water, Sugar, Lemons (juice, zest and some of the lemon remains) and white wine vinegar in the bin and stir vigorously to get the sugar dissolving.

Then add the Elderflower heads. You should treat these heads as gently as possible until you get them in the water.

Once in give it all another gentle stir, and cover with something that is not air tight.

Stir daily until all the sugar is disolved.

You can disolve the sugar in some of the water before starting the mix by gently heating it in a large saucepan, and most recipes advise this; but I find that the sugar disolves by itself after a couple of days anyway as long as you stir it well each day from the bottom.

After 4 – 7 days the mixture should start to get some mould growing on the top, normally starting around the floating lemon remains. This means the reaction that you want is taking place, not that it is time to throw it away!

When you see the mould, remove everything floating in the mixture with your (clean) hands. Then strain the mixture through a sieve then a muslin a couple of times until all bits are properly removed.

Finally line your funnel with the muslin and strain the liquid directly into plastic bottles.

I make a small depression in the neck of the bottle before screwing the lid on tight. When the champagne starts to get fizzy the depression will pop out, showing you that it’s working, it’s also a very satisfying sound if you are near to the bottles when it happens :).

The pop should happen after around 3 days, and the champagne should be ready in roughly 2 weeks. It will still keep getting fizzier for up to 4 months though, so you may need to burp the bottles a couple of times if you keep it that long.

The fizz in elderflower champagne is generated by an active yeast which keeps going, so this means that half drunk flat bottles just need to be put back in the fridge for a couple of days and they will get fizzy again!

Hope you enjoy this.. We always do πŸ™‚

24 comments for Making Elderflower Champagne

  1. carlyn says:

    Great instructions, thanks. I have to burp my bottles everyday, it’s been 10 days since they were bottled now. I’m going on holiday for a week and am worried about what will happen in my absence! Will the fizz production calm down in the next 2 weeks and would putting them in the fridge or somewhere else help at all?
    many thanks for any advice you can offer

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I would leave them somewhere outside in the shade where if they explode, they won’t damage anything. They should be fine but better safe than come back to a kitchen covered in champagne. My bottles are particularly fizzy this year, there must be more yeast on the flowers than normal. We all treat our champagne differently, I don’t burp the bottles as I think it releases the pressure so more yeast can react making it very fizzy again.

      1. carlyn says:

        Thanks Eric. I’ll give no burping them a go too. I have no idea where all the fizz just keeps coming from! As you say its particuarly fizzy!
        Thank you for your advice

  2. Yvonne Ward says:

    Hi. I’ve bottled my elderflower champagne on in flip top bottles and was told to burp them 2-3 times a day. When I do release the clip it immediately starts to fizz up and froths over so I have to close the clip again quickly to stop it spraying everywhere. Do I have to repeatedly do that every time til there’s no fizz over or is once enough to release the pressure to avoid exploding bottles? TYI

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I never use glass bottles in case of explosion and I don’t burp the bottles. If the pressure is that high, they are ready to drink now.

  3. Emily says:

    My beautifully smelling concoction has gone totally cloudy, rather than have a floating mold layer on the top. What have I done wrong and is it rescuable?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      Strain it and bottle it. It may be fine or sometimes bacteria can overtake the yeast concentration and spoil the drink, you’ll have to wait and see. Make another batch while the elderflowers are still out. Good luck.

      1. Emily says:

        Hello, followed your advice, fuzzing well but still totally cloudy. Safe to drink?

        1. Rebecca says:

          hi did you drink it? i have to write more in this box to submit this comment so I’m writing more for that purpose now! πŸ˜‚

  4. Caroline Morgan (Walker) says:

    would love to have your recipes for elderflower.
    what bottles do you use?
    thanks
    Caroline

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I like to use old plastic bottles so that if there is an explosion, it is messy but not dangerous. Old fizzy pop bottles are the best.

    2. Eric Biggane says:

      I use old fizzy pop bottles, they are strong enough as long as the champagne isn’t in the bottle for too many months. I don’t like using glass as I’ve had a few explosions.

  5. Sam Maitland says:

    Hi, I watched a TV programme featuring Sarah Beeny where she made elderflower champagne using pink elderflower growing in her garden? I note your article says to only use common black elder which I have foraged from the wild and used to make about 30 liters of champagne this year (which was lovely). I have planted two pink elder shrubs in our garden with the view to making pink elderflower champagne next year, is this not recommended??

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It should be fine to use pink elder, there was some controversy over the raised glycoside content of pink elder but this seems to no longer be considered a problem. Also the glycosides are very volatile so heat or alcohol will destroy them anyway.

  6. Kay says:

    Hi can I use dried elderflowers instead of fresh & how much would i need approx for 5ltrs ? & is the proses the same..many thanks x

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I use dried elderflowers out of season and it works fine, it tastes good but can be darker in colour than when using fresh flowers. I would use one mug full of flowers for five litres.

  7. Al Wernham says:

    Hi,

    I’ve bought all the equipment you said and was going to buy 10 x 1 litre fizzy waters.

    My logic was to use the fizzy water in the mixture and then use the empty bottles to put the plonk in. my other reason for buying the water I’d bc my tap water really smells of chlorine.

    This said, is it OK to use fizzy mineral water or is it best to use still water?

    thanks

    al

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      I’m afraid I have no idea about using fizzy water, I’ve never tried. I use tap water but I live in the hills in Wales where they don’t need to add as much chlorine as more built up areas. I would use still water but use empty fizzy bottles to store it as they are stronger. You could try a small batch with fizzy water to see what happens but the champagne gets very fizzy anyway.

  8. Kaytee DeWolfe says:

    Do you have any idea of the alcohol content?

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It’s difficult to test with a hygrometer as the end result is fizzy but with the small amount of yeast naturally on the flowers, it will be less than 1%.

  9. Helen says:

    Hi
    I’ve made some elderflower fizz but this years batch seems very gloopy with lots of yeast gathering on the top, when I burp them all the gloop rises up from the bottom and lots of bits floating around, it tastes okay but not keen on the bits, should I strain it again wash bottles and see if that helps or just bin it, I don’t want to poison anyone 😊

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      The ‘gloop’ is just sediment and is not dangerous in any way. I can look off-putting but doesn’t affect the taste. I try not to burp the bottles and instead open the bottle 20 mins or so before I want to drink it, very slowly letting the pressure out over that 20 mins. You can also agitate the bottle gently before opening so the sediment mixes in and is less obvious.

  10. Catherine says:

    Hi,
    Accidentally left the bucket for 10 days rather than 3-7. Is it still usable? Should I still bottle it? Also been stirring it daily which I’m not sure was the right thing to do.

    1. Eric Biggane says:

      It should still be usable but only time will tell. Bottle it and see what happens.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *