My Elderflower Champagne is finally ready
I made it when the elderflowers finally came out, several weeks ago, and today I opened the first bottle – and it fizzed! It tasted utterly delicious, just as I remember it from my childhood. Summers, in those days, as well as being long and hot (ahem), were punctuated by the pop of corks from homemade Elderflower Champagne.
I love the scent and the taste, and the magical element of capturing something precious in nature and keeping it for a little longer. It makes me understand all the preserving, drying, bottling and jam-making of my grandmother, and all my grandmothers back as far as anyone could ever possibly remember. It’s the magic of midwinter celebrations, bringing the richness of summer into the darkest and leanest time of the year.
I hadn’t made Elderflower Champagne for a while. I was too busy, or so I told myself. Elderflower Cordial is so easy to buy from the supermarket, and all year round, too. But this year I was determined to make it. I could even justify it as research for my new novel, ‘We That Are Left’.
And so today, as I sip my champagne (we called it ‘pop’ when I was little, but I have a distinct indication it’s not quite as innocent as it appears!), I am celebrating ‘Eden’s Garden’ being chosen as a ‘Summer Read’ and racing back up the charts to the dizzy heights of number 13 while I wasn’t looking, and the birth of a new book. ‘We That Are Left’ begins in 1914, and is being published early in 2014 by Honno Press.
Once the cover has been finalised, I shall be celebrating again. Meanwhile, I am celebrating the first line of the book: ‘It was the day of raspberries and champagne, the day the world changed.’
6 large heads of Elderflower.
2 1bs (907g) sugar
4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
2 (10 l) Gallons of cold water
Wash the lemons and peel the lemon rind as thinly as possible. Remove any insects, leaves or other unwanted objects from the Elderflowers. Squeeze the lemons and put the juice into a large vessel along with the lemon rind and flowers. Add the sugar and the wine vinegar. Pour on the water. Put a lid or cover over the top of the vessel and leave to stand for 24 hours. Stir gently every six hours.
Sterilise strong bottles. (plastic fizzy drinks with screw tops bottles are fine) Strain the mixture and pour into the bottles.
After two weeks the champagne is sparkling and delicious. However, the taste does improve with time and can be left for up to two years.