|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 23g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 23g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Made with the lacy, cream-colored flowers of the elderberry shrub (Sambucus nigra or S. canadensis), elderflower champagne is a naturally bubbly, lightly alcoholic beverage with a delicately sweet and floral taste. The fresh flowers are in bloom from late spring through early summer. You can use dried elderflowers in the off-season, though the sparkling wine will have a slightly darker flavor profile.
It's worth noting that this fermented elderflower beverage isn't technically champagne because it doesn't contain the grape varieties used to make authentic Champagne. But it's been referred to as elderflower champagne for generations, so that common name is being used here.
The elderflower champagne recipe is pretty easy, though it does require patience. It takes over two weeks for the "champagne" to naturally ferment and delicious bubbles, and you'll need to pay close attention to the mixture for the first week or so. Sweetened with either honey or sugar, the final drink should be fizzy and lightly sweet, but not cloyingly so. It's also best to let it rest for a couple of weeks, after which you can serve it chilled for a unique and refreshing drink on hot summer evenings.
If you can't find fresh elderflowers, you can substitute dried.
"The initial fermentation went well and the flavor of the strained liquid was nicely balanced. It wasn’t showing much activity so I added wine yeast after two days. I would not recommend flip-top bottles for elderflower champagne as it’s the most volatile fermented beverage I’ve come across yet." —Colleen Graham
7 to 8 large clusters (about 6-inch diameter) elderflowers, or 2 to 3 cups (4 to 6 ounces) dried organic elderflowers
1 pound honey, or 1 1/2 pounds granulated sugar
4 cups filtered or unchlorinated boiling water
12 cups filtered or unchlorinated cold water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, or juice and rind of 2 large lemons plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon wine yeast, or 1 small pinch baking yeast, optional
Gather the ingredients.
Do not wash the elderflowers. It is their natural yeasts that will cause fermentation. Just shake off any insects and remove the thick stalks.
Place the honey or sugar in one or two very large bowls and pour in the 4 cups of boiling water. Stir until the honey or sugar has completely dissolved (if using two bowls, split the ingredients evenly between them).
Add the 12 cups of cold water. Stir in the vinegar or lemon juice and the elderberry flowers.
Cover with a clean dishtowel and let the mixture sit at room temperature for 48 hours, stirring at least twice a day.
By the end of 2 days, you should see signs of fermentation: The top of the liquid will look frothy and bubbly, especially when you stir it. If the liquid is completely still after 48 hours, add 1/4 teaspoon of wine yeast or a very small pinch (just a few grains) of baking yeast and wait another 48 hours, stirring occasionally, before proceeding to the next step.
Pour the fermenting elderflower champagne through a finely meshed sieve to strain out the flowers (and lemon rind, if using).
Use a funnel to help transfer the brew into clean plastic or glass soda-type bottles with screw tops. Do not use flip-top bottles or corked wine bottles because elderflower champagne is quite capable of popping out the corks or, worse—exploding the bottles. Leave at least an inch of headspace between the surface of the liquid and the rims of the bottles. Secure the tops.
Leave at room temperature for a week, “burping” the bottles by unscrewing the caps slowly (to prevent spraying) at least once a day. After the week at room temperature, move them to the refrigerator, but keep “burping” the bottles occasionally for another week.
Serve chilled or over ice.
- The honey version takes slightly longer to ferment than the sugar version.
- During fermentation (both in the bowl and bottles), keep the elderflower champagne in a relatively cool place out of direct sunlight.
Fresh elderflower season is short, but you can make elderflower champagne year-round with dried flowers. The process is identical, and the sparkling wine will have a darker floral taste and color, though it's still refreshing. When straining, line a fine mesh strainer with two layers of cheesecloth to catch the smallest flower bits. Some sediment will develop in the bottle, so if you'd like a clearer champagne, run it through clean cheesecloth a second time before bottling. You can source organic dried elderflowers here.
How to Store
Elderflower champagne will keep in the refrigerator for several months; make sure the bottles remain tightly sealed and burp them every week or so. The earlier you drink it, the yeastier it will taste, so wait at least two weeks after bottling if you want it at its best.
How do you stop elderflower champagne from exploding?
Fermentation creates carbon dioxide, which is why beverages like beer, wine, and kombucha become fizzy. Naturally fermented elderflower champagne is very active, and you'll notice this within the first day after bottling (especially if you supplement it with yeast). As the pressure builds up, bottles have the potential to explode, which creates a sticky mess. Due to factors like ingredients and temperature, each batch of elderflower champagne can react differently. Taking a few precautions will help prevent the type of "champagne shower" you definitely want to avoid:
- Using proper bottles suitable for carbonated beverages will help prevent explosions. Quality plastic tends to resist pressure better than some glass bottles. You will hear the plastic pop as pressure builds inside the bottle. Recycled kombucha bottles made of heavy glass are another option.
- As noted, avoid bottles with cork enclosures. We also found during testing that screw-cap bottles are best because you can slowly release the pressure. Flip-top bottles are harder to control as the fizzy foam may overflow before you can get it resealed and result in flat wine with almost no bubbles.
- After bottling, the room temperature elderflower champagne should be "burped" at least once a day to release excess gas and prevent explosions. After a week, the bottles can be transferred to the fridge and should be burped occasionally for another week.
- To burp the bottles, slowly unscrew the cap before resealing them. The amount of gas you release will determine how fizzy your finished champagne is; if you let too much escape, the wine will be just lightly bubbly, but if you don't release enough, there is the potential for explosion. In testing, we found a good balance by letting the gas escape for 20 to 30 seconds three times a day.
How strong is elderflower champagne?
Elderflower champagne is a relatively light alcoholic beverage. The test batch weighed in just under 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) on a hydrometer designed for home brewing. That puts it right in line with the average beer.