Elderflower Fizz

elderflowerthumb.JPGJune 2009 - Elder trees here have produced a real profusion of bloom this year. I'm going to try making a real old-fashioned favourite - Elderflower Fizz

I've drunk this excellent, mildly alcoholic fizzy beverage many times before but have never actually made it myself (although I did make something similar last year).


What Is Elder?

Sambucus nigra - A common shrub or small bushy tree found throughout much of the UK - in early summer, it produces large, flattish heads of creamy white fragrant flowers - followed in late summer by deep red/black berries.

elderflower2.JPGBut it's the flowers I'm most interested in right now. I picked enough to fill two supermarket carrier bags - must have been about a kilo of flowers or so.

If you're doing this for the first time, make sure it is elderflowers you're picking - there are a couple of other things around at the same time that are superficially similar - including Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) and a few umbellifers such as Cow Parsley and (the unrelated) Ground Elder. If in any doubt at all, consult a native tree guide and match ALL of the descriptors against the plant you're collecting.

elderflower3.JPGBack home, I took a large, brand new bucket, washed it thoroughly and filled it with 10 litres of cold water, into which I dissolved one kilo of granulated sugar.

I roughly cut up two lemons and a tangerine and crushed them a bit and added them to the liquid.

elderflower4.JPGThen I added the flowers - shaking off the bugs and caterpillars, then cutting off as much stalk as possible and stirring them into the liquid.

Now I just have to wait a day or two - the natural yeasts on the flowers should start to ferment the sugar, then it will be ready to go into the bottles.

The next day, I opened the lid to stir the contents and the aroma was really quite fantastic - there's no conspicuous sign of fermentation yet, but the bucket is in a fairly cool place - I expect one more day will have it ready for bottling.

elderflower5.JPGSaturday morning - approximately 36 hours after starting, I washed and scrubbed some bottles with wire spring stoppers and got ready for bottling.

As you can see, the brew bucket I'm using here is just an inexpensive plastic bin (brand new and clean).

elderflower6.JPGI strained the mixture straight into the bottles, using my fine mesh jelly bag inside a funnel. The result is cloudy, but it's meant to be that way.

The flowers and little bits of stem didn't go to waste - I put them on the compost heap.

elderflower7.JPGThere was enough to fill 11 bottles (only 10 in this picture, I know), with a litre or so left over - which I chilled and served as non-sparkling cordial with dinner.

The flavour is really quite intense and I'm really looking forward to the finished product, which should be ready after a couple of weeks' fermentation in the bottles.

So, here we are at the end of June and I took a couple of bottles with me to the beach - it's worked really well - lightly sparking after a couple of weeks in the bottle - a couple more weeks and it will be quite exuberantly bubbly, I think.


I used a lot of elderflowers to make this batch - more than most of the recipes suggest - the result is quite an intense aroma, but it's really nice.