Despite any rumours you may have heard, I do not really drink a great deal at all.
I usually attend a beer festival or two during the year and partake of a few pints of proper ale, cider or perry, have mulled wine at Yule, a few Pimms or similar in the Summer and a smattering of other bevvies through the seasons. But not really that much at all.
When I do drink, however, I like to make sure that whatever I am drinking will be worth the pain the next day. So, no aussie beer, air freighted wines and chemical filled bottles.
Real ale, cider, perry, local and natural if at all possible please.
Home made? Maybe even better, so when I saw the hedgerows filling with the pungent white froth of elderflowers my mind began to wander into the realms of home brewing.
Even though we have never made wine before, I regularly make cordials (of varying flavours and therefore successes), jam and pickles, so wine should not really be that much harder. Indeed, the recipe for elderflower champagne I found seemed ridiculously easy, and as it would be rude to not reap a bit of the early summer harvest, the Summer Solstice found us trooping through the countryside with a large basket and a couple of pairs of secateurs.
An hour and some nettle stings later, we had filled the afore mentioned basket around three times with elderflower heads bursting with scent and flavour.
As I never tend to do things by halves, we had collected enough elderflowers to make around 75 litres of champagne, and were then faced with the dilemma of what to make the bloody stuff in. An old dustbin was suggested, but due to the thought of actually having to get into it to clean it out properly, we eventually plumped instead for six new buckets (a bargain at only £1 each and will be re-used in all sorts of guises).
Sugar, lemon juice and rind, hot and cold water and some white wine vinegar were all added to the buckets, being ceremoniously topped with a white cloud of elderflower heads before the whole lot was stirred gently. A hat of clean tea towels ensured that the mixtures were not befriended by any beasties, and the whole lot was left to ferment in the kitchen.
24 hours later, and we returned to the shiny row of buckets to check on the fermentation. There was none, so tonight we are heading back to add a bit of yeast to the mixture instead (elderflowers do naturally ferment, but as a few of the flowers we added were a little open, we may have to give it a helping hand).
Will the mixture ferment? Will our champagne get its fizz? Will we actually get 60 bottles of booze for the grand total of £16 (for the fairtrade sugar and lemons)?
Watch this space...