Ed Brown is arguably Britain's top expert on elderflowers — and here's his favourite method for turning them into something rather special...
Ed Brown has something of an obsession for elderberry trees: he’s been the man in charge of the National Collection of 147 sambucus species and cultivars since 2008.
Ed runs Cotswold Garden Flowers near Evesham, where he grows — and sells — hundreds of varieties of elderberry trees. One thing he doesn’t do with the flowers, however, is make cordial.
Instead he makes elderflower ‘Champagne’ in 25-litre buckets and decants it into receptacles recycled from local wedding venues. The old bottles have their sticky labels removed with a pressure washer, while wire fastenings and corks come from a local wine shop, along with the yeast EC-1118.
The result is a bubbly with an alcohol content of 12 -14% — and if you can’t get to Ed’s nursery to pick up a bottle yourself, here’s how to make it.
Ed Brown’s elderflower Champagne recipe
Makes around 25 litres
- 4kg sugar
- 15 lemons
- 800g elderflower flower heads
- EC-1118 Champagne yeast (Lawson’s and Amazon both sell it online if your local shop doesn’t stock it)
Boil two kettles of water and dissolve the sugar into it in your 25l bucket.
Add the zest and juice of 15 lemons and then top up the 25L bucket with cold water.
Add 800g of flower heads (blackfly and all) and the packet of yeast.
Place a dinner plate on top — the right way up — to prevent a build-up of gas.
Leave for 5-8 days; the time to bottle it up is when the fizz begins starts to go.
Sieve the mixture, to remove the flowers — a sprout net does the job for Ed in the Vale of Evesham.
Bottle in sterilised, clean bottles. A hot tunnel heats up sufficiently, on summer days, to sterilise the clean bottles and then Milton tablets, also sold by wine shops, finish off the process.
Refrigerate before serving, because it alters the way the bubbles fit in between the molecules of water. If the temperatures are too high, the cork will hit the ceiling!
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