Last weekend, in a rare four hour rain-free spell, we finally got out onto the country lanes and picked four carrier bags full of elderflowers. We produced several litres of cordial (including some frozen in icecube bags, for possible later additions to beer) and some elderflower infused vodka, which is developing quite nicely. But it was elderflower champagne we were really after — not that we’ve ever actually tried it before, but there are enough enticing pictures and descriptions on the internet to tempt us.
What was interesting to us was just how unscientific most of the recipes were. Most recipes measured elderflowers in heads or volume (a ‘pint’ of flowers!) — what’s wrong with grams? No recipes mentioned anything about sanitisation; only one mentioned a hydrometer; and most were relying on wild yeasts and luck to get things going. Most of the fermentation advice boiled down to “leave it for a few days then bottle”. We’re not surprised elderflower champagne has a reputation for being tricky and either undercarbonated or exploding. We’re complete amateurs when it comes to beer, but the idea of launching into a brew without even measuring the original and final gravity seemed bonkers to us.
The amateur approach to elderflower champagne did make us ponder on the difference between this and home-brewing. Both have long histories of being made at home, for domestic consumption, but unlike beer, elderflower champagne has never been industrialised. Too seasonal and too labour intensive?
Needless to say, we had to apply some of our beer-brewing principles (proper measurements, some sanitisation) when we finally settled on a recipe. We’ll let you know how it turned out and post the recipe (and semi-scientific instructions) if it’s half decent.
When we were just starting out we blogged on how over-prescriptive homebrew books can be, and how this can be quite intimidating to just getting on with it. Of course, the more scientific you are, the more consistent your results, as we’ve come to realise.