When I lived in England hedgerow foraging was serious stuff! Every year I got very excited at specific times of the year based on what I was able forage. In the UK there are public footpaths everywhere so people go back to the same spot year after year when they know something good grows there. I have found so many great things when I least expected it: wild asparagus, sorrel, wild garlic, sloes and elder! Here in the Pacific Northwest it took me a while to really get to grips with what I could forage but I was not disappointed! I will write separate blogs on the various wild foods when they are ready to harvest!
This takes me to today. I noticed when I was driving home from work Friday that the elder flowers are out! This made me remember the time I made elderflower Champagne in the UK. When it was time to bottle I did so but made the error of putting the bottles on their sides. One night while watching TV we heard a pop, then another pop, and then lots more and eventually realized that we had a mess to clean up! I will not make that mistake again!
Today on a hike I was lucky and found lots of elderflowers, so I decided it was time to make elderflower Champagne. Where I live the red elder is the one I see a lot and the difference from the UK elder is that the flowers are in more of a cone shape, that is where the differences end.
I used the River Cottage Handbook ‘Booze’ book for my recipe this time as it has worked before. They give the advice to use 8 full flower heads but if you are picking the red elder you need maybe 24 - 40 heads, depending on the size.
You need to dissolve 2 liters of water with 800 grams of sugar; you can then add an additional 3 liters of cold water, but make sure this is cool before you add the elderflowers, and the zest and juice of 4 lemons.
Leave this to ferment. I used a bucket fitted with an air lock (basically this is a brewing bucket which my husband makes to brew beer).
If fermentation has not started after 3 days then you should add a packet of Champagne yeast.
After 6 days of fermentation strain the liquid through a boiled cheese cloth. Cover the liquid for a few hours to let the dust settle and then siphon into bottles (any kind) and cap. I plan to use the bottles that have an attached stopper, they call them bale wire bottles
I will add pictures to this blog as I get through the process. I really wanted to publish this today so that those of you in the Pacific Northwest can get picking before the flowers fade!
UPDATE - Fermentation complete! Admittedly I went on a business trip for a few days and should have bottled before I went away. No problem though as I tasted it and WOW!
I used the flip cap bottles as they are easy to work with. When I opened the bucket the smell was amazing, elderflower and lemon were the strong scents that overwhelmed me!
I then used a siphon with sanitized muslin cupped around the end of the tube to capture all those dead black bugs :)
You can already see the bubbles! Once this was done I filled the bottles....1 more week before I can enjoy :)
FINAL UPDATE - The day has come and it is time to give this stuff a try. I am shocked and impressed at the same time, this stuff is amazing. It is SO full of bubbles so be careful. You MUST give this a try next year. I will never live a year without this stuff again!