Elderflower and Rose Champagne… the perfect summer drink?

The taste of Elderflower champagne will always remind me of warm summer evenings spent with good friends and good food. Here is a new twist on that old favourite, adding the delicate scent of roses along with a blush pink tint.

Rose petal and Elderflower champagne.  Simple to make and full of the tastes of summer plus it’s ready to drink in 2 weeks!!!  Plan your August party now and get picking.

The recipe is below along with some great photos of last week’s One day foraging courses.

 Rose petal and Elderflower champagneJapanese Rose - Rosa rugosa

  • 8 litres water
  • 8 large Elderflower heads
  • 1 pint of well scented rose petals ( I used the Japanese rose )
  • 4 lemons
  • 4 tbsps white wine vinegar
  • 1.25kg sugar

Boil half the water in a large pan and dissolve the sugar into it. Pour in to a large clean bucket and top up to make 8 litres. Cool until it reaches 40 degrees C, then add the elderflower heads, rose petals, vinegar, the juice of two lemons and two sliced lemons.  Cover with a cloth and leave for two days, stirring twice a day with a sterile spoon.  On day 3 sterilise a muslin cloth or straining bag and a large jug. Strain the champagne in to the jug squeezing the mixture to extract as much liquid as possible.  Pour into screw topped bottles – we use plastic fizzy water bottles.  As the champagne ferments the pressure inside the bottles will build up. In order to prevent explosions we recommend that you check the bottles daily and release a little pressure if the bottles swell.

The champagne will be ready to drink in two weeks.

Elderflower and Rose champagne

Elderflower wine

This is my recipe for Elderflower wine, I have made wine this way for the last 15 years and it always works well.  There are loads of flowers this year, it’s a bumper year!

Elder.  Sambucus nigra Be sure of your identification!!

Elder. Sambucus nigra
Be sure of your identification!!

I have explained the process in detail for any of you that have not made wine before, you can also scale it up and it still works perfectly. Find elder growing in hedgerows, on disused railway lines, on waste ground – it is a tree that can be found in the countryside and in urban places, so is great for everyone.

You will need 2 wine making buckets with a 1 gallon mark on and a lid, 2 x clear gallon demijohns, a large funnel, a jelly bag or sheet of muslin, bungs and airlocks to fit the demijohns, siphon tubing and 6 wine bottles – either with good lids or buy corks and a corking device. You will also need chemical sterilizer available at wine making supplier.

Makes 6 Bottles

  • 1 pint of elderflowers
  • 3 lemons – grated rind and juice (keep the juice in the fridge until day 5)
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 2.5lb sugar
  • 2 campden tablets
  • 1tsp yeast
  • 1tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1tsp tannin
  • 1tsp potassium sorbate (or stabilising tablet)
  • Finings (as per packet instructions)

foraging walk

Day 1. Pick Elderflowers that are fragrant and at their peak, not either in bud or dropping petals. Put them into the wine bucket with the grated rind of the lemons. Boil the water and pour it over the flowers and lemon rind. Cover loosely and leave to cool. When cool add a crushed campden tablet and stir.

Days 2, 3 & 4. Stir twice a day, each day with a sterile spoon (I pour boiling water from the kettle over my plastic spoon and it is fine)

Day 5. Sterilise the mesh bag, plastic spoon and 2nd bucket, then rinse. Strain the liquid through the fine mesh bag into the bucket. Add the lemon juice and sugar and stir until dissolved with the sterile spoon. Then add the yeast, yeast nutrient and tannin, and stir. Cover loosely.

Days 6, 7, 8 & 9, Leave to ferment. Try to keep the wine at about 20 degrees C.

Day 10. Sterilise your demijohn, mesh bag, funnel, bung and airlock and spoon if using. Strain the wine through the mesh bag into the demijohn using the funnel. Fit the bung and airlock. (put boiled water in the airlock) Again keep the temperature as close to 20oC as poss. Leave for approx 15 days until the wine stops fermenting.

Day 25. Sterilise your other demijohn, airlock and bung, and the siphon tubing. Siphon the wine into the clean demijohn leaving the sediment behind. Add 1 crushed campden tablet and 1 tsp Potassium Sorbate to the wine, and swish it around to remove gas. Then add the finings as per the packet instructions (probably 2 tsps) Put a clean airlock and bung on the demijohn and leave it to clear. Put the wine in a place now where it can settle out and won’t get knocked or moved  – you will need to be able to get to it later to siphon it out.

Day 50 – approx. Your wine should be clear as a bell. Now sterilize your bottles and siphon tubing and carefully fill the bottles without disturbing the sediment in the bottom of the demijohn. This is best done by 2 people one filling bottles and one making sure the tube doesn’t pick up sediment. Cork or cap your bottles I sterilise mine by putting them in boiling water for a few minutes

…You can drink it straight away but it improves with keeping.

elderflower med size

Birch Sap Wine and early Spring foraging

On our ‘One day foraging‘ course this Saturday the group learnt the technique for tapping a Birch tree. The end of the birch sap season is progressing at walking pace up the country as we speak.  All of you in the north have time to collect sap, those of you south of us may be too late, it depends how cold it has been. Check the size of the leaf buds on the tree – they should be still small and tight (officially the size of a squirrels toe! ) Instructions for tapping trees are below along with our Birch wine recipe. Thank you all for coming on the course, we enjoyed your company, the course photos are here too. Tapping a Birch tree Choose your tree carefully, Silver Birch, Downy Birch or Sycamore are all good, choose a large one at least 25cm diameter. You will need a large clean bottle or demijohn, some 10mm plastic tubing and a 10mm drill bit and drill. Find a tree that has smooth bark about 1m up from the base and a good place to put your sap container. The sap rises in the layer just behind the bark so a hole 2cm deep in to the tree is perfect. Put one end of the tubing into the tree and the other in the bottle filling the gap with a clean rag to stop any bits falling in. Sap running out Sometimes you can get a gallon of sap overnight, but sap doesn’t keep well so we advise you to freeze it if you do not have enough after 2 days. Don’t take more than one gallon per tree and when you have your sap, fill the hole with a piece of wood that has been shaped to fit. Sap can be drunk as a nutritious spring tonic, made in to a lovely country wine or boiled down to make a syrup. Of course once you have a wine or a syrup this can be an interesting ingredient for other dishes. Birch sap wine Birch sap wine was introduced to Britain from the Baltic and is still commercially made on a small scale in Scotland.  Writing in 1718 Ned Ward, author of ‘The London Spy’ described it as “Wine drawn out of a birch tree… drinks almost like mead, and makes a mans mouth smell of honey.” Ingredients

  • 1 Gallon of Birch sap
  • 2 1/2 lbs Sugar
  • Zest of 2 Lemons
  • 1/2 lb Raisins
  • 1 tsp Brewers yeast.
  • You can also add 1tsp of yeast nutrient which does help the whole thing along but is not vital.

Method Boil the sap with the lemon zest for 20 minutes.  Poor into a clean bucket containing the sugar and raisins and stir until all sugar is dissolved.  When the liquor has cooled to 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) add the yeast and yeast nutrient. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place (65-70 degrees F) for 4-5 days stirring daily. demijon cropped Strain into a demijohn fit an airlock and leave in a warm place until fermentation has finished (approx 10 days).  Bottle the wine using siphon tubing taking care not to suck up the sediment in the bottom of the demijohn. Cork the bottles and keep for 3 months before drinking.