Words and images by Amanda.
Here’s another use for your fresh elderflowers – elderflower wine. My recipe is for a sickly sweet dessert wine, essentially fulfilling my desire to have alcoholic elderflower cordial. It also works very well dry, with the dusky flavour of a dry wine giving just a hint of the light floweriness of the blossoms that went into it. The recipe given below is for a strong, sweet wine that will mature quickly.
To make wine, you will need a little bit of specialist kit at your disposal. Namely:
A fermentation bin: Essentially a large bucket with an airtight sealing lid, and a small hole in the lid for inserting a fermentation lock
Fermentation lock: A little water chamber that lets gas escape, but doesn’t let anything get back in
A demijohn: A glass or heavy duty plastic jar to ferment it in. The lid will need to have a hole for a fermentation lock.
A hydrometer: Basically a thermometer without the mercury for measuring liquid density. It measures the alcoholic potential, and then the actual alcohol produced.
A siphon: Just a long plastic tube.
LOADSA sterilising stuff. Sterilise everything before you use it like it’s covered in zombie virus during an outbreak of the undead.
Makes 1 gallon (6 bottles)
- 1/2 pint of elderflowers.
- 3 1/2lb white sugar, a little less if you don’t want it too sweet. This is like a dessert wine.
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons.
- A strong cup of tea (no milk!)
- 1lb sultanas, rinsed under a kettle full of boiling water, chopped
- Yeast nutrients are a good idea, follow the instructions on the box – usually 1 tsp per gallon
- Wine yeast, again usually 1 heaped tsp per gallon
- Fermentation stopper (e.g. campden tablets)
- Water to 1 gallon.
Mix together the elderflowers, sugar, lemon, tea, and sultanas in a fermentation bin and then top up with water until it reaches the gallon mark. Add in the yeast, and nutrient if you’re using it. This is often referred to as ‘pitching’ the yeast.
Check the alcohol potential with your hydrometer. Bear in mind most yeast will die by 16% abv, and only super yeast may live to 18% abv, so you want a reading of around 1140 – 1160 on your hydrometer for the sugar.
Ferment for 5 days then strain through a muslin and decant into a demijohn. Keep it in the demijohn with a fermentation lock on the top until there are no more bubbles coming through the fermentation lock. This might take a couple of weeks.
Have a taste, and test with the hydrometer for alcohol content – 1030-1040 is a reasonable finishing value on your hydrometer. This is a matter of taste rather than a precise science, so if it’s to your liking, add some fermentation stopper, and then start bottling! If it’s too dry for your taste, add a little sugar and then add fermentation stopper, so that it can’t just start fermenting again.
Make sure that your bottles and siphon tube are fully sterilized and then begin siphoning. Put your demijohn on a countertop, and your bottles below it. Have your siphon tube inside the demijohn, but not right at the bottom – you want to leave behind the sediment left after fermentation. Suck the liquid through the tube until it is just over halfway and then quickly shove your thumb over the end – it should start flowing freely like a hosepipe! I tend to do this with a partner – you don’t want to drag up the sediment at the bottom, so do it slowly and carefully – one of you can concentrate on filling the bottles, the other on making sure the end of the tube isn’t picking up the grot from the bottom.
Once bottled, stopper up or cork your bottles (screw top is fine if you have them) and don’t forget to label them. It should be fairly drinkable pretty much straight away, though I would recommend keeping it for a few months, or even a year or so. I will confess that a large proportion of my wine disappeared around New Year’s Eve 😉
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