Monday, 23 May 2011

Confessions of an Elderflower Perve

Every year, about half way through May I become an elderflower perve. Checking those plentiful bushes for the progress of their creamy blossoms, waiting for the right time to pick them for elderflower champagne. Elderflower is everywhere, and right now it's going bonkers. Although last year I spent so long lusting after the flowers, I never actually got round to doing it. I kept meaning to visit the brewing shop (which isn't open on a Sunday, which is the day I always remember to think about it) to buy a nice big brewing receptacle, but never made it, and hence the little white flowers withered and died, soon to be replaced by deep purple berries. Which I hate the taste of. Euurgh. This year, I still didn't manage to get to the brewing shop and resorted to brewing half the bubbles in a bucket and the other half in my big Le Creuset.

This is adapted from Hugh F-T's recipe for elderflower champagne, I made it for the first time a few years ago, it was great (except I would recommend leaving the fizz to brew a bit longer than he does, as it wasn't ready when I gave it the 8 days in the bottles that he suggests).

And now to wait...and wait...IS IT READY YET?
Go and snip off 25-30 elderflower heads (wooden 'I'm so country' trug optional), give each bloom a good shake as there will be a few bugs in there. Dissolve 2kg sugar in 4 litres of hot water in a very clean container (or two if you are me). Top up with another 2 litres of cold water. Add the zest and juice of 4 un-waxed lemons, 2 tbsp white wine vinegar, the flowers, and stir gently. Cover with muslin and leave for 2 days in a cool airy place. Add a little pinch of yeast and stir, leave for another 4 days. Now strain through muslin and decant into very clean bottles (swing-top ones are the best but fizzy drinks ones are OK, just not as pretty). Seal and leave for another 10 days (if when you taste it, it's super sweet, a bit yeasty and just not that great, it's not ready, leave a bit longer), and serve chilled.

If you make this early enough in the season, you'll be able to make another batch, I've finally got hold of some citric acid (the boss must have been a bit surprised opening up a packet of white powder that arrived at my desk when I was away) so I can make cordial as well now. Best go and perve on some more elderflower...

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