Elderflower Champagne

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes, I follow foraging recipes that aren’t from Forage, Harvest, Feast. Shhhhhh, don’t tell Marie.

Despite my lukewarm reaction to results from two years ago, I decided to try making a fizzy fermented elderflower-based recipe again. What else am I going to do with all these flowers?

Elderflowers covering my shrubs
Elderflowers covering my shrubs

(I know, I know… I can make fritters again, which I might but it’s so much work. And yes, I realize every flower cluster I harvest reduces the size of my berry harvest, but I regularly harvest way more elderberries than I can use!)

I decided to use this recipe. It makes a LOT more than the Viljoen recipe did, so I hope I like it this time!

Harvested elderflowers - the wide gaps in the colander make it easy for insects to escape
Harvested elderflowers – the wide gaps in the colander make it easy for insects to escape

I might’ve gone a bit heavy on the flower amounts. I struggle with recipe quantities like “7 or 8 large clusters”, because even with qualifications like “about 6-inch diameter” that’s still subjective. I weighed my flowers once I snipped off the large stems. I used 67 grams of flowers. So if this experiment is a success, next year I’ll know to harvest the same weight.

Only thing is… it’s been almost 48 hours and there’s still no signs of life in there.

The charm of elderflower “champagne” is that the flowers’ naturally occurring yeast provides the fermentation power for the beverage. This is why you don’t wash the flowers first – it rinses away the yeast. (And trust me, no matter how hard you shake the flowers you will end up with insects in there. Just think of it as extra flavoring.)

Elderflower champagne underway
Elderflower champagne underway

But it rained earlier this week. Nature may have washed away all my yeast! I could have harvested the flowers earlier in the week, but I wanted them to be as fresh as possible when I started the champagne, and I was trying to be realistic about my time commitments during the work week. And while plenty of blossoms remain on the shrubs, it rained again yesterday AND this morning, so fresh flowers won’t introduce new yeast.

Relatively low temperatures may be compounding the fermentation problems. The rain brought cooler weather with it, pleasant but unusual for June in the Midatlantic. Our house – windows and doors open to the elements – has hovered around 70 degrees, which is a very chilly number for yeast. The batch is now sitting on a seedling heat mat (hey, it’s what I had), to see if that remedies the situation. Otherwise, tonight at the 48-hour mark I will “cheat” and add some wine yeast.

And then…. we wait. Stay tuned to discover whether this year’s elderflower fizzy fermented fun actually is a flop!

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