"…only possible to drink from a glass, not from the floor…"
July 9, 2018 4:26 PM   Subscribe

Elderflower wine is a traditional British country wine, “by far the nearest thing to Champagne you can make at home and an essential accompaniment to summer parties.” Recipes historical (Mary Kettilby, 1714; Eliza Smith, 1727) and modern (John Wright, 2011; Hank Shaw, 2016) are available (and not so very different from each other).

It is made from the very large and showy flower clusters of the black elder, which has an extensive range geographically (from Europe to eastern North America) and in folkloric history (from Shakespeare to Harry Potter). It is also a fairly easy wine to make at home, requiring minimal equipment and skill.

I apologize for posting this a little late in the elderflower season, but if it's too late for foraging in your locale, you can always wait a couple months and make elderberry wine; or wait a couple more months and get potted elder shrubs of your own on clearance at the garden store!

(Apologies also to John Wright for the post title, describing what may happen if you're especially careless in bottling a sparkling wine. He's not kidding: I once embedded a rather large amount of raspberry sparkly in my parents' ceiling, for which they have never forgiven me. Incidentally, I recommend his winemaking book above all others.)
posted by ragtag (19 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting that the 18th century references are women, while the 21st.century ones are men. Which reflects the transition of brewing from a woman to a male dominated field (I regard elder flower wine manufacturing as more similar to beer than wine.

Of course that wasn't something that just happened- it took the establishment of guilds, and corresponding legal and social sa
Opprobrium, to the point where female brewing was associated with witchcraft. Things are starting to change now, but it's still a male dominated craft and industry.

Just something to think on while enjoying a glass.
posted by happyroach at 4:53 PM on July 9, 2018 [20 favorites]

Turnip wine, huh?
posted by kenko at 4:57 PM on July 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Which reflects the transition of brewing from a woman to a male dominated field

Also food writing and professional cooking generally.
posted by kenko at 4:58 PM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

My (late) mother made elderberry wine. God, I miss it.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:31 PM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is elderflower champagne rather than elderflower wine, which is still and more like a muscat-type white wine. Delicious, as is the elderflower champagne, although you can't sell it as "champagne", as the people who make the real stuff will sue. Elderberry wine not so much, when I've tried it it was dark, spicy and with a distinct laxative effect.

I don't have access to fresh elderflowers at the moment, but I make a lot of home-made ginger beer and am planning cider this year and I find the large 2l plastic bottles soft drinks are sold in a boon to anyone making this sort of fizzy drink, as the plastic stretches slightly rather than exploding if the pressure gets too high. Also, it's easier to let the pressure off with a screw top rather than with the metal clip tops on the bottles used in the video. When I was a kid my father used to make a lot of these fizzy drinks and he used glass bottles. They are mostly ready to drink very soon after bottling, but better if you leave them for a while, but then the pressure has to be let off regularly, or they will explode, especially in warm weather. We did have one batch that exploded, and my dad had to cover the whole lot with a blanket, in the cupboard where they were stored, and chuck rocks at them until they had all gone off. It was very messy indeed, and there was a lot of shrapnel.

Bonus Recipe - Very Quick Ginger Beer

About 4 oz fresh ginger root,
Juice of I lemon
6 oz caster sugar
About half a teaspoon of beer yeast (I have used bread yeast at a pinch and it worked pretty well)

Grate the ginger root into a bowl, add about a pint of hot water and strain. Squeeze out the juice and repeat with more hot water. Mix in the lemon juice and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Pour into a 2l soft drink bottle, top up with cold water (it should end up about blood heat) then add the yeast and screw the top on tight. Leave overnight somewhere warm (near a radiator in the winter, and absolutely anywhere in the summer). The mixture should start to ferment within a few minutes, and the bottle will become hard as the gas is produced. The beer is ready to drink the next day, and if you put it into the fridge to cool, it should stop or slow down fermentation.

This is slightly alcoholic (2-3%) - if you want a less sweet, more alcoholic beer, leave it to ferment for longer, letting the pressure off regularly.

Since my favourite commercial ginger beer has changed its recipe to include artificial sweeteners, this has become my preferred hot-weather drink. I've found that if you leave the last couple of inches in the bottle, you can just add the ginger, water, sugar and lemon, without the yeast, and it will still ferment. I am trying to get a proper ginger beer plant scoby going, from a bought starter, but so far they keep dying on me.
posted by Fuchsoid at 5:59 PM on July 9, 2018 [22 favorites]

I used to make raspberry wine, mead and raspberry mead. I concur that 2 liter, or 3 liter soda bottles are extremely useful for making fizzy mead, fizzy wines, they CAN in fact burst. Had it happen once. At least the horrid sticky mess did not include glass shards.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:20 PM on July 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was just about to say the elderberries have just finished blooming behind my house. Jelly, I think, this year.
posted by which_chick at 6:26 PM on July 9, 2018

Is this similar to elderflower liqueur (like St. Germaine), which is so delicious?
posted by great_radio at 7:05 PM on July 9, 2018

Does elderflower wine taste like elderflower cordial? That stuff is so delicious - and homemade is even nicer than store bought.

My roommate taught me how to make the elderflower syrup, which is decidedly easier than fermenting anything. (Boil up a simple syrup, steep the flowers to draw out the flavour, then strain and chill). But I shouldn't have trusted her when she said that the little black flecks were seeds, and we didn't need a finer straining cloth. We didn't realise how wrong we were until my mom was about to drink a glass, and pointed out to us that the seeds had legs.
posted by jb at 7:46 PM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

"the seeds had legs"

It's advisable to give all the flower heads a good shake before doing anything else with them - they tend to attract tiny beetles.

Elderflower syrup is delicious, and very easy to make. The flower heads (once shaken) also make delicious fritters -holding them by the stalk, dip the flowers into a light batter, and they fry in oil. Dust with a little sugar, and eat them using the stems as a handle.

Yes, I used to live in a house with a big elder tree in the garden, why do you ask?
posted by Fuchsoid at 7:53 PM on July 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Related: Elton John, "Elderberry Wine".
posted by Chrysostom at 9:33 PM on July 9, 2018

In a good summer my wife beavers away until our house is full of elderflower something or other. We've got some growing in the hedge and loads along a river not so far away. This year it's cordial and liqueur, most years it's cordial and champagne.

Can't stand the cordial or liqueur, but her champagne is excellent.
posted by dowcrag at 11:16 PM on July 9, 2018

The Eliza smith recipe is based off of currant ant not from elderflower. I've made both and it mentions it being a good colour, which my (red) currant wine is but the elderflower wine is a very pale yellow. I've really taken to making small amounts of hedgerow wine (or in my case allotment wine) and have in the freezer gooseberries and blackberries ready to make into some nice wine. They're from last year so I really should be getting on to it sometime.
posted by koolkat at 7:23 AM on July 10, 2018

Turnip wine, huh?

I hear some root wines, like turnip and beet, are awful, but that others, like carrot and (especially) parsnip, are excellent! (I can confirm that beet wine is... not palatable. I haven't worked up the courage to try parsnip after it, though.)

The Eliza smith recipe is based off of currant ant not from elderflower.

(Look under the "Frontiniac Wine" heading!)
posted by ragtag at 7:41 AM on July 10, 2018

Ahh missed it because I was looking under the English Champagne (what alcoholic sparkling elderflower is usually called)
posted by koolkat at 9:16 AM on July 10, 2018

I have made a couple of batches of palatable beet wine but the carrot and parsnip, especially the latter, are surprisingly good.
posted by Botanizer at 9:54 AM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Recently, I blew some friends minds making them elderflower fritters, which they'd never had before. We'd been for a walk, the elderflowers were full bloom, and someone was wondering if we'd be able to make cordial, but that needs a few weeks to steep, and then I remembered fritters! I hadn't made them since I was a child, I'd forgotten how good they are!
posted by Helga-woo at 3:25 PM on July 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

My experience with parsnip wine is that it tastes alright but the hangover starts before you're even pissed.
posted by howfar at 4:30 PM on July 10, 2018

I'm making raspberry wine right now from the raspberries I grew in my garden. I have John Wright's book which I'm learning the basics from, but he doesn't have a raspberry wine recipe so I've cobbled one together by combining his Blackberry wine with some raspberry wine instructions I found on a message board. Please wish me luck!

I made elderflower champagneonce in a plastic.soda.bottle but it exploded and scared/soaked the cat who was sleeping nearby. He's never forgiven me.
posted by hazyjane at 12:28 PM on July 13, 2018

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