I realise this might seem a bit two-weeks-ago, now the elderflowers are shedding their bloom and fading from the hedgerows, but I couldn’t write up the recipe until I was sure it had worked, and now it has I’m all over-excited about it. Plus, there’s always next year, right?

When the elderflowers were in full throttle, back when it wasn’t raining like every single day, I picked so many that I needed to find ways to use up the ones that hadn’t gone into cordial. I turned to my trusty copy of Darina’s ‘Forgotten Skills’ and found recipes for elderflower vinegar, elderflower tempura and elderflower ‘fizz’. The elderflower vinegar I dutifully made, bottled, and have not used. The elderflower tempura fell by the wayside because I can never be bothered to deep-fry things. The elderflower fizz was more intriguing and seemed almost too simple (‘this magical recipe transforms perfectly ordinary ingredients into a delicious sparkling drink’), but I weighed the ingredients into a bowl, left it overnight and bottled it as directed, leaving it on its side in the wine rack until…a week or so later I realised I hadn’t put the seal in properly and half of it had leaked all over the worktop. What was left looked pretty flat and I assumed it needed pressure to work and I was looking at a big fat fail.

But then! Tonight we decided to open it anyway. The top came off with such an almighty pop I shrieked like a very girly girl. I poured it into a glass. It fizzed! It was delicious. And so I can only urge you to make this as soon as possible, which I’m sorry may well be May 2012, because it does seem to be completely foolproof. Magical, even.

*It’s not actually alcoholic. Well, maybe a very little bit.

Elderflower champagne

2 heads of elderflower
zest and juice of 1 organic lemon
600g sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Shake the elderflower carefully to remove any insects (it helps to do it onto a pale surface so you can see them, they tend to be tiny). Remove the zest from the lemon with a swivel-top peeler. Put all the ingredients into a bowl with 4.6 litres of cold water and leave for 24 hours.

Strain the liquid and pour into strong screw-top or flip-top type bottles. The bottles need to be well sealed (ahem!). Lay them on their sides in a cool place for 2 weeks, after which they should be sparkling and will be ready to drink.

From ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’, Darina Allen

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