Technically, this fermented elderflower beverage isn’t a champagne because it doesn’t contain the grape varieties used to make authentic champagne. But it’s been referred to as elderflower champagne for generations, so we’ll stay with that and it makes the drink feel extra special.
- 14 -16 small elderflower clusters (half it if you’ve got larger flowers)
- 1L boiling hot filtered water
- 2.8L filtered cold water
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar (or 2 large lemons – juice and rind – plus 2 tablespoons cider vinegar)
Do not wash the elderberry flowers. It is their natural yeasts that will cause fermentation. Just shake or pick off any insects and remove the thick stalks.
Place the honey in a very large bowl and pour in the boiling water. Stir until the honey has completely dissolved.
Add the cold water. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice and the elderberry flowers.
Cover with a clean dishtowel and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 48 hours, stirring at least twice a day. By the end of these two days, you should see signs of fermentation: the top of the liquid will look frothy and bubbly, especially when you stir it. If the liquid is still completely still after 48 hours, add a very small pinch (just a few grains) of wine or baking yeast and wait another 48 hours, stirring occasionally, before proceeding to the next step.
Pour the fermenting elderflower champagne through a finely meshed sieve to strain out the flowers (and lemon rind, if using). Use a funnel to help transfer the brew into clean glass bottles with screw tops. Do not use corked wine bottles because elderflower champagne is quite capable of popping out the corks or worse, exploding the bottles. Leave at least an inch of headspace between the surface of the liquid and the rims of the bottles. Secure the tops.
Leave at room temperature for a week, “burping” (opening briefly) the bottles at least once a day. After the week at room temperature, move them to the refrigerator, but keep “burping” the bottles occasionally for another week.
Elderflower champagne will keep in the refrigerator for several months. The earlier you drink it, the yeastier it will taste. Wait at least 2 weeks from bottling if you want it at its best. The honey version takes slightly longer to ferment out than the sugar version. The final drink should be fizzy and lightly sweet, but not cloyingly so.