Elderflower Champagne and other uses of elder

25th June 2012

Elder (Sambucus nigra) is in the honeysuckle family and produces masses of blossoms during mid June early July around Staveley, depending on the weather.

Because elderflowers have their own natural yeast, they make wonderful, easy champagne.

Elderflower Champagne recipe
My recipe, made as simple as possible, is to add 7 flower heads to 4.5 litres of cold water in a bucket and add 700 grams of sugar. Leave for 24 hours to soak and then strain into plastic bottles. Don’t put the lids on too tightly until the fermentation has stopped (bubbles have stopped rising). Ready to drink after 2 weeks.
Most recipes include 2 tablespoons on white wine vinegar and  2 lemons which  improve the flavour, but it is possible to make champagne without them).

Elderflower champagne talk at the Big Onion, June 2012

Other uses of the elder plant

Organic fungicide spray
Boil 500g of leaves (poisonous to humans) in 3 litres of water for half an hour. Traditionally used to help control mildew and blackspot on roses and reputed to kill aphids and small caterpillars.

Lotion for blemishes and sunburn
Fill an earthenware jar with flowers and add 3 pints of boiling water. When cool add 40g gin or vodka. Leave for 3 hours to stand then strain and bottle.

EYP tea
Use elderflower, yarrow and peppermint tea at the onset of flue or fever. Take 3 cups daily.

Elderflower tea has been used to treat hay fever and arthritis. The bark was traditionally used to treat epilepsy.

Elderberry cordial
Good for colds, coughs and bronchitis.

Jews Ear Fungus
On older elder trees you may find jews ear fungus, at any time of the year. Good fried and added to stews. (Make sure you are 100% sure of identification before touching or consuming any wild mushrooms).

Other recipes

Elderflowers are also tasty battered, fried and sprinkled with sugar. They make delicious cordial (dissolve 1.5kg sugar in 1 litre hot water and cool to blood temperature. Add 20 flowers with stalks removed, the zest of 2 unwaxed lemons and the lemons themselves, halved. Leave for 24 hours then strain and bottle). Add some elderflowers as you finish cooking gooseberries. Elderflower wine is a very nice white hedgerow wine.

Elderberries make very reliable and good red country wine. Try making a spiced batch for Christmas. Cordial and spiced cordial is also delicious (cover 1.5kg’s berries with water and simmer with 1kg sugar until berries are soft. Strain and add 400g sugar and 12 cloves to each 500ml of juice. Boil for a further 10 minutes then cool, strain and bottle).  Elderberry vinegar has been described as a good English alternative to balsamic vinegar and can be used in the same way, e.g. in tomato sauces (leave 350g berries in 500ml white vinegar for 3-5 days. Strain and add 350g sugar per 260ml liquid and boil for 10 minutes before cooling and bottling.)

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