Elderflower champagne may not be real champagne, but to me it tastes like summer. It's lemony, sweet, refreshing, and mildly alcoholic...what's not to like? Every year I look forward to making and drinking it, but this year I was almost thwarted. Hard for a seasoned forager/cook like me to admit, but if I share my mistakes here, maybe I can save someone else the heart break of finding their elderflower brew moldy instead of frothy and sweet.
I'm pretty sure I figured out what went wrong. We've had a lot of rain here in NE PA and rain washes away the flower pollen. Elderflower pollen contains the yeast responsible for fermentation, so when there's not much pollen, there's not much yeast. And when there's not much yeast, you get mold instead of fermentation.
I made the mistake of harvesting my flowers after several rainy days...hence my bad brew batch. Why didn't I photograph the mold? I guess I wanted to forget it ever happened. Above is a healthy batch of flowers combined with lemon slices, soaked in water, sugar, and vinegar. This is from a second batch, picked after several sunny days. I'm happy to say that this time fermentation was successful. I've just bottled 4 liters of elderflower champagne, which should be ready to drink in about a week.
For the full recipe (from my book: Down & Dirty: 43 Fun & Funky First Time Projects & Activities to Get You Gardening), go to http://www.whyy.org/91FM/chef/recipe365.html. Or, you could always buy the book!