This has been a tradition within our family and one that we eagerly love to share on Christmas day. Some years the batch is more heady and floral than others but we all rejoice nevertheless as it has been made simply from our hedgerow elderflowers.
Makes 8 litres
20 sprigs fresh elderflowers, remove any dead flowers and insects
2 Lt boiling water
6 Lt water
3 lemons, peel sliced off in strips
1 orange, peel sliced off in strips
5g of yeast, (buy champagne yeast from homebrewing shops or websites)
10 litre container
4 x 2 Lt plastic bottles with lids
Dissolve sugar in 2 litres of boiling water, set aside until cool
Once the sugar syrup has cooled to room temperature, pour it into a large, clean 10 litre container. Add the rest of the water, citrus peel, the juice from 1 of the lemons, the elderflowers and the champagne yeast. Give the mixture a good stir, cover with a muslin cloth and leave to ferment at room temperature for 3–4 days. Give it a little stir every day, you will notice a beautiful fragrance and it will start to bubble as the fermentation process begins.
For this next stage, ensure your plastic screw top bottles are clean. It is important to use plastic bottles, as the fermentation process produces carbon dioxide, which is what makes your ‘champagne’ sparkling but can also make bottles explode. The plastic bottles (as opposed to glass ones) have a little give so can expand a little, and the screw-top lid isn’t as airtight as a cork.
Pass the champagne through a muslin cloth, then decant into bottles using a funnel. Tightly screw on the lids. The second stage of fermentation occurs in the sealed bottles and is what gives your champagne its fizz.
Leave the bottles for another few days, checking each day and carefully opening each lid to let some of the gas escape if needed. After a couple of days the second fermentation should be taking place.
We have successfully stored ours for a vintage brew, enjoyed later on the following year.