This is the time of year when elderflowers are everywhere. The elder is a very hardy tree that can grow in land with poor nutrition, it can cope with pollution and is distinctive for is wizened bark and lacy, cream coloured flowers which are abundant at the start of the summer. Last year I made a couple of batches of Elderflower wine using two different recipes. One was a great success and the other, well, it’s still in the demijohn and doesn’t look too appetizing. I recently gave away a couple of bottles of batch 1 and they were extremely well received. So much so that one recipient has asked for the recipe. So this is for someone we’ll call Trad Jen (because that’s her name) but I hope everyone else enjoys it too.
You will need:
1 pint of elderflowers (more of this in a bit)
6 pints boiling water
1 tsp wine yeast
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Zester, lemon squeezer, large 1 gallon pan, demijohn, airlock
Choosing your elderflowers and getting a pint worth is key. You need to smell the elderflowers before you pick them as some don’t smell too good. Some of the winemaking books I have describe the smell as ‘catty’ by which I think they mean they smell like cat piss. Other times I have smelt some that, to be frank, smell a bit like sperm – that’s right, boy juice. These varieties should be avoided. Your wine will taste of the smell you ferment so make sure they smell sweet and elderflowery. Pick them on a warm sunny day when they are fully open; this prevents excessive amounts of insects and ensures maximum flavour. You need approx 10 large heads or 15-20 smaller ones.
2.Pick or cut the flowers off the stalks and measure them out. You need a pint which is where they are loosely packed and not squashed down.
6. Go do something fun like topless underarm farts or sitting on a roof top barking at the birds or streaking across a cricket pitch. Whatever you do it needs to last 3 days as that’s how long you’re leaving the flowers and lemon zest to infuse.
7. After 3 days, if you have the energy after all the fun stuff you’ve been doing, strain off the flowers and zest – be sure to save the liquid as this will become your wine. Discard the flowers, they’re done with now.
8. Add the sugar and that lemon juice you saved. Point to note here is that 3lbs sugar was a touch too sweet for me but Trad Jen has a very sweet tooth and she loved it. This year I added 1kg (approx 2.2lb).
9. Add the yeast and yeast nutrient and pour the whole lot into a demijohn then fit an airlock and leave in a warm place.
The fermentation will be very vigorous to start with and you’ll enjoy hearing the bubbles plup through the airlock. You’ll note that we haven’t filled the demijohn but that’s deliberate because if you fill it to the shoulder the must will bubble out of the airlock and all over your airing cupboard or whichever other warm place you’ve put the demijohn. It’s no fun when that happens. When the initial fermentation has quietened you can add some cool boiled water so that the wine reaches the neck of the demijohn. This is more or less it. After a month or so you’ll need to rack the wine off the lees into a clean demijohn and keep doing this until the wine is clear and the bubbling has stopped. It’ll then be ready to bottle.