This is a deliciously light and fragrant wine that smells of spring days and civilized life.
Elderflowers are a joy to pick: a feast for the eyes and the nose. There is something quite magical about turning flowers into wine.
Makes 4.5 liters or 6 standard bottles of wine
500 ml of elderflowers picked, pressed or gently shaken. Do not include green stems. Rinse if you think it is necessary
1.5 kg of granulated sugar is fine and it is better to use white; otherwise it will dominate the color/flavor
250g raisins, washed and slightly chopped
1/2 cup strong tea, chilled
3 lemons squeezed for their juice
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient or 1/4 teaspoon yeast extract, marmite or malt extract
1 teaspoon yeast (preferably a wine yeast)
4.5 liters of boiling water
Note on ingredients
The flowers provide the flavor.
The yeast converts the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. You can use honey or white grape juice (pure or from concentrate) or a mixture of these to replace sugar.
Raisins add body and a smooth finish to the wine.
Tea also helps body and flavor by providing tannin.
Yeast nutrient or yeast extract provides an easy food for yeast to get off to a good start.
An optional ingredient is pectolase. This is an enzyme derived from a fungus that breaks down pectin, which can produce a “haze” in wine. If you want to use it, follow the supplier’s instructions.
You’ll also need something to completely sterilize all of your tools and equipment. You can use sulfite or campden tablets. There are several commercial cleaning/sterilizing powders available at homebrew stores and drug stores.
You will need the following:
A prep bucket or large bowl that holds the liquid with room to skim and should be able to cover a large spoon or stirring paddle
Two demi-johns or 5l containers to store your wine while it ferments and clarifies. You can improvise with 5l water bottles.
An airlock to seal the demijohn from contaminants and allow carbon dioxide to escape. You can improvise with cotton, plastic wrap and a rubber band.
A funnel is helpful, a funnel with a built in strainer is great. Use a sieve otherwise
A piece of plastic tubing to extract the wine from the semi-johns
Six bottles to hold the finished wine and corks to seal them. You can put cork caps and labels on it to make the bottle look beautiful.
Make sure all your equipment is clean and sterilized and that you have all the ingredients on hand.
Dissolve the sugar in 500ml of boiling water. Stir until you are sure there are no granules left.
Put the flowers, raisins and lemon juice in a bucket.
Pour over the remaining 4l of boiling water, add the sugar solution and stir lightly to mix.
Check the temperature of the liquid. It will need to get down to about 21°C before you can add the yeast. Depending on the ambient temperature, this may take a while. You can start in the morning and finish in the afternoon or start later and go out at night. Make sure the bucket or container is well covered with a lid or kitchen towel or similar while you wait.
Once the liquid has dropped to 21oC add the tea, yeast nutrients and yeast and cover again. Put in a warm place.
The liquid will soon begin to visibly ferment and gas bubbles will develop within 24 hours.
Let the liquid ferment until the really vigorous fermentation stops. This can take from 5 to 14 days, depending on conditions.
Strain the liquid into a sterilized demijohn (or other container). Fill to the brim of the container with cooled boiled water and seal with an airlock. You should still see bubbles coming through the airlock, showing that the wine is still fermenting. Leave in a warm place.
After a while the fermentation will stop and the wine will start to clear and you will see a sediment start to appear at the bottom of your container. This could take 2-6 weeks depending on the temperature.
Once this stage has been reached, siphon the wine from one semi-john to another sterilized semi-john leaving the sediment behind. Fill up to the shoulder with cooled boiled water. Seal with an airlock or plug. Then let the wine clear completely. This can take six months or more. If you notice an amount of sediment appearing. Re-“transfer” the wine by removing it from the sediment in a sterilized container.
Once the wine is clear and bright, siphon it from the demi-john into clean, sterilized bottles and corks.
The wine should be stored in cool conditions and will continue to improve for up to 18 months. Yes of course!
CAVEAT! Plant identification for forage foods is ESSENTIAL. There is, for example, a resemblance between an old man’s flower, Queens Ann’s lace, and poison hemlock. The latter is, of course, poisonous. Elderflowers grow on trees, hemlock does not, so if you are a beginner, it will be easy to identify them once you have become familiar with the plant. Always thoroughly research first, choose second.
Carl Legge lives on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales on a small permaculture property and writes a regular blog full of delicious recipes and more. He is the author of La cocina de la permacultura: ama la comida, ama a las personas, ama el planeta, a book of delicious local, seasonal and homegrown recipes, published by our sister company Permanent Publications. It is available for a special price of £11.20 from our Green shopping site (Also available as an ebook.))