A delightful light floral bubbly drink made from foraged elder flowers. If you haven’t made elderflower champagne before, it’s definitely worth a go. A glass of chilled floral fizz on a summer’s day is so refreshing.
Not everyone has the capacity to make and store gallons of drink. We find that the nearly two litres that this small batch elderflower champagne recipe makes is just right for us. It doesn’t require any special equipment and we don’t need lots of storage space. But if you want and are able to make more, just up the quantities given in the recipe card below.
What is Elderflower Champagne?
The most important thing to point out is that elderflower champagne, isn’t actually champagne. That’s an alcoholic wine from the Champagne region of France. It has a controlled designation of origin which is governed by very strict rules.
The second point is that it’s not the same thing as elderflower cordial. Elderflower cordial is a still syrup. Consequently, you need to dilute it with water to drink it.
What it actually is, is a delightful light floral drink which produces its own bubbles. The final drink does contain alcohol, but only in small quantities. So it should be fine for anyone to quaff, including children.
My mother used to make elderflower champagne when I was a child. Commercial fizzy drinks were a no-no for me growing up, so summer elderflower champagne was one of the highlights of my year.
Elderflowers are produced by the elder tree, Sambucus nigra. They generally start to appear from mid May here in the UK. Depending on the trees and locations, you can find them up until the end of June.
Look for newly opened creamy flower heads and pick them on a dry sunny morning. Leave it too long and the sun may have baked the pollen. Pick too soon and the flowers will still be wet with dew. The whiter the heads, the older they are. And the older the flowers are, the more they’re likely to smell musky. Some say it’s like cat pee. I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen on elderflower champagne that tastes of cat pee. Timing is everything.
You don’t need many flower heads for this recipe, so don’t worry about denuding the tree. Most of the flowers are high up and hard to reach anyway. But do please be aware that the flowers are needed for insects, so it’s best to pick carefully. The flowers later turn into elderberries which birds feed on. You can also use them to make elderberry rob or wine.
It’s best not to wash the elderflowers before use or you will lose the natural yeasts that create the flavour and bubbles. So try to find clean elderflowers away from polluted areas, such as busy roads.
Before you dunk the flowers into sugared water, why not give any insects a chance to escape? Give the heads a quick shake outside and leave them on a piece of newspaper for ten minutes so that any stragglers can crawl or fly away.
Are Elderflowers Poisonous?
It’s absolutely fine to make elderflower champagne or elderflower cordial with elderflowers. They are not poisonous. However, much of the rest of the elder contains significant quantities of a cyanide-inducing glycoside. So don’t eat the leaves, bark, roots, stems or raw seeds. You have been warned.
If you cook, elderberries, you destroy the cyanide-inducing glycosides. So elderberry rob, for instance, isn’t poisonous. It is, in fact, good for you.
Small Batch Elderflower Champagne
This recipe for small batch elderflower champagne is less sweet than the one I grew up with. And I think much nicer. It’s more about the taste of elderflowers than the cloying sweetness of sugar. Lemon gives it a touch of acidity and bubbles give that refreshing mouth feel.
You need to soak the elderflowers in a mix of water, sugar and lemon for at least twenty four hours. The whole lemon goes in, juice, pips, rind and all. Just cut the lemon in half, squeeze in the juice, then chuck the halves in after it. In addition to the lemon, I use apple cider vinegar. But white wine vinegar is fine too.
You can soak the flowers two ways. Either remove them from the stalks and dunk them into the liquid. A fork works well for this. Alternatively, place the heads downwards so that the stems are poking up out of the water. Either way, you don’t want to get too much stem into the liquid.
Once the soaking time is over, line a large sieve with a clean muslin cloth and sit it over a large clean jug. Ladle the liquid into the sieve to filter out the flowers, lemon and any other unwanted bits. As soon as the jug is full decant the liquid into sterilised bottles. See below.
Leave a three centimetre gap at the top. Unless you have a steady hand, you might want to use a funnel to pour the liquid into the bottles. Continue to strain until it’s all gone.
What Type of Bottle to Use?
It’s actually more about the lids than it is the bottles. Nevertheless, the best bottles to use are glass ones with screw cap lids. If, however, you’re planning on drinking the ‘champagne’ as soon as it’s ready, lids that don’t seal as well shouldn’t matter. You can see one of the bottles I used for this batch has a plastic lid. It’s not completely airtight, so is useless for long term storage.
You can use plastic screw top bottles if you like, but despite the possibility of explosions, I prefer glass. You can’t sterilise plastic for a start and I’m also concerned about possible chemical leakage.
If you use screw top lids, it’s important that you keep them loose at this stage. Carbon dioxide builds up quite quickly and the bottles might explode if the gas can’t escape. It’s also fine to use glass bottles with corks or flip tops. If you use these though, you’ll need to open them once a day to let the gas escape, then reseal.
The elderflower champagne is ready to drink after two weeks. If you’re not going to drink it straight away, screw lids down tightly. Store in a cool dark place and it should keep for several months. If it’s too warm the champagne may continue to ferment and you may end up with exploding bottles. So keep an eye on that fizz.
How Long Does Elderflower Champagne Last?
Elderflower champagne is generally ready to drink two weeks after bottling. If, however, you want to keep it for longer, that’s absolutely fine. If the bottles are well sealed and you’ve followed the correct process, your champagne will last for several months. My mother often drinks hers when she’s brewing the next batch the following year.
Other Foraged Plant Recipes You Might Like
- Dandelion honey
- Double blackberry chocolate galette
- Fat hen & chickweed pesto
- Nettle cakes with lemon & white chocolate
- Nettle soup
- Samphire noodles with miso marinated tofu
- Spanakopita – wild greens and feta filo parcels
- Wild garlic pesto – two ways
If you’d like other ideas for drinks recipes, I have a few. Just click on the link.
Keep in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you try this recipe for elderflower champagne, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Have you any top tips? Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.
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Elderflower Champagne – The Recipe
Small Batch Elderflower Champagne
- 1.5 litres water
- 150 g golden sugar - granulated or caster
- 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 4 elderflower heads
- Boil the water and pour into a large glass or pottery bowl. Add the sugar and stir until it's dissolved. Leave to cool to room temperature.
- Cut the lemons in half, squeeze in the juice, then throw in the lemon halves. Don't worry about any pips that go in. Add the vinegar and give a good stir.
- Remove the flowers from the stalks and dunk them into the liquid. A fork works well for this. Alternatively, place the heads downwards so that the stems are poking up out of the water.
- Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave it to soak for twenty four hours.
- Line a large sieve with a clean muslin cloth and sit it over a large clean jug. Ladle the liquid into the sieve to filter out the flowers, lemon and any other unwanted bits.
- As soon as the jug is full decant the liquid into sterilised bottles, preferably those with screw cap lids. Leave a 3 cm gap at the top. Unless you have a steady hand, you might want to use a funnel to pour the liquid into the bottles. Continue to strain until it's all bottled.
- It's important that you keep the lids loose at this stage. Carbon dioxide builds up quite quickly and the bottles might explode if the gas can't escape. If you are using corks or flip tops, then open the bottles once a day to let the gas escape, then reseal. You can use plastic screw top bottles if you like, but I prefer glass, despite the possibility of explosions.
Elderflower Champagne Sharing
I’m sharing this recipe for a elderflower fizz with Feast Glorious Feast for #CookBlogShare.