Elderflower fizz

elderflowerWhile making this fizz isn’t particularly complicated, it can go wrong, mainly if the equipment isn’t totally sterile. Mildly alcoholic, it depends on the natural yeasts that appear on the flowers, so you have to a) collect the flowers early in the morning on a dry day when they have most pollen and b) collect perfect freshly opened heads and check for insects before you cut them…(the freshest heads often have a slightly concave shape). This is because you can’t wash the flowers – lay the flowerheads out on some paper when you get home, and any wee beasties will crawl away.

As I said in the post for Elderflower cordial, please forage responsibly 🙂

Ingredients

30 heads of elderflowers

1kg sugar, preferably castor

3 unwaxed lemons, zested and juiced

3 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar

8 litres of water

You need a very clean bucket, or a stainless steel or enamel pan of 10 litres capacity,

and very clean ex fizzy drinks bottles to take 8-9 litres.

Method

Pick over your flowers for bugs, remove as many flowers as you can from their stalks, then snip away as much stalk as possible. Add the sugar and 2-3 litres of water to your receptacle, and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the rest of the water, then elderflowers along with the juice, zest and vinegar. Cover with a clean piece of damp muslin and leave in a cool place for 2-3 days, stirring once a day with a sterile utensil.

If, after the 2nd day, it is not starting to gently bubble/show some signs of (subtle) effervescence you can add a pinch of yeast and stir again, but you shouldn’t need to do this. If you do, cover again and leave for another 2-3 days, allowing it to ferment and brew.

Strain the liquid carefully through a sieve lined with double muslin and funnel into strong fizzy drinks plastic bottles. The potion can produce a lot of gas, so you need to check and release some gas out – don’t take the screwtops off completely, as this might let in unwanted bacteria in the air. This is known as ‘burping the bottles’!

If you forget, the bottles will fall over – which is the great advantage of using plastic over glass, which could just explode. I keep mine in the bathroom, just in case I end up with an overflowing bottle and a sticky mess.

It is ready to drink after 2-3 weeks. It is only mildly alcoholic, but it is very moreish.

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Le Gendarme – a drink for an afternoon party

It’s Bank Holiday Weekend in the UK, and predictably the weather reports have been pretty gloomy for most of this little island – miraculously London has been sunny for 3 whole days, albeit very windy today…we were going to go to the beach for a picnic (yes, London does have beaches) but it’s high tide 😦

Anyway, while not wishing to put a hex on the hopefully imminent start of summer, I thought I’d put up some drinks recipes up – ‘cos as the season to invite people round for a bit-of-fun bbq looms large, being expansive and welcoming and generally putting on a good spread doesn’t mean living on bread and water for a fortnight before and after.

This first one contains alcohol, and is a slightly more toothsome version of a spritzer, but you can use cheaper wine. It tastes much more grown up than it sounds, and I got the ‘recipe’ – if you can call adding a couple of things together in a glass a recipe, from my lovely friend Domenic, who comes from Biarritz  and is very  stylish – if it’s good enough for the French, it’s good enough for me.

Just like when you’re making Bucks Fizz, the alcohol can be cheap (obviously vaguely drinkable, but the budget range in the supermarket will do fine), however the mixer must be of good quality, so when you buy the lemonade, make sure it has no lo-cal/artificial sweeteners, ‘cos you’ll waste a bottle of wine.

Ingredients

1 bottle/or litre carton of cheap white table wine

Equal (or slightly more) quantity of lemonade, cloudy or clear.

Per bottle of wine, 1 unwaxed lemon.

Method

Pour wine and lemonade into a really big jug. Wash lemon, cut in half, squeeze juice into the jug, and then turn the lemon halves inside out to help release the oils in the skin. Pop them into the jug, and add some ice cubes. Serve straight away.

P.S – not that I’m being defensive about you all laughing at me 😉

re: London beaches – blatantly, they are not on a par with La Plague des Anglaises, or Miami, or Rio – or even Torquay or Blackpool, but all along the Thames there are ‘secret’ steps down to the shoreline, and some of them have good clean stretches of sand and are actually quite pleasant – no donkeys, no ice cream, but also no tourists, which if you grew up in a seaside town, can be seen as generally ‘a not necessarily bad thing.’