It is very rare these days to get anything for free, but foraging is the one thing that can really bring you something amazing for nothing more than a little time and patience. Luckily enough, some of my favourite foraged items grow wild in my dad’s garden. Earlier in the year, I made quite a few cheap meals using wild garlic including risotto, omelette and quiche. Much as I love wild garlic though, the goldmine of foraging is what’s available now; elderflowers.
Dad let me know yesterday that his elderflowers were ready so I popped out and bought all the other ingredients I needed for 18 litres of elderflower champagne. Dad then very kindly did the hard work for me (this may cost me a couple of litres of champagne once it’s ready), and picked and delivered approximately 100 elderflower heads.
Last year was the first time I’ve made elderflower champagne and I followed the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe from the Channel 4 website. This worked fabulously for me, but it is nowhere near enough. Even the first time I made it, I knew it wouldn’t be enough so I doubled the amounts. I also ended up making two batches (around 25 litres in total). This year, I have learnt from last year’s error; 25 litres just wasn’t enough. So I have tripled the amount this time, making around 20 litres to start with and I will do another batch next week. I also use a lot more elderflowers than they recommend. They are readily available and free and as far as I’m concerned, the stronger the taste the better.
When it comes to bottling, I have always bottled my champagne into fizzy pop bottles. I leave a bit of air at the top rather than filling them right up and I release the pressure every couple of days until it calms down. I then put it into glass bottles just before serving or giving it away. Once it is in a glass bottle, it really needs to be kept in the fridge to stop any more pressure building up, glass bottles can be prone to exploding if there is too much pressure. I use the Lorina lemonade bottles when I do put them into a glass bottle, a fabulous idea courtesy of my friend Maz. I wash them out with boiling water and get the labels off, it works out much cheaper than buying empty bottles. Plus I really like the lemonade! Here is one of my bottles waiting to be filled up.
So my first batch of champagne is now brewing and our decking is in the process of being built. This means that in a couple of months, we’ll be sitting out on the decking enjoying a warm evening, a beautiful view of the hills and a glass of home made bubbly. Bliss!