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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the rhubarb thing

There are loads of really good rhubarb recipes out there – but you do need a) a copious quantity of rhubarb and b) the equipment to sterilise your preserving jars etc – as my cooker still isn’t piped in, I can’t even do that the old fashioned way…mustn’t grumble, but I can’t even make a crumble 😉
While the British are generally credited with being the first to turn rhubarb into pudding, it’s the rest of the world who have made imaginative pairings with other fruit.
Marks and Spencers, that bastion of British institutions, (a store most famous for quite posh food and supplying our ‘great’ nation with sensible knickers,) brought out a range of fizzy drinks last year based on the hard boiled sweets of our childhoods, with cute retro labels and lovely chunky glass bottles – the rhubarb and custard one was so delicious, I can’t begin to describe my potential addiction. Luckily, they cost £2 odd a bottle so that saved me from myself.
Anyway, I had 3 decent sticks of rhubarb and 2 small ones from the community garden down the road, not enough for anything major and I’ve been hankering after that drink – this is not a particularly healthy recipe, so it’s just as well to make it in small amounts.
I keep one pot of sugar with a vanilla pod in it – I don’t use it very often, but if you don’t split the pod when you’re making things, you can put the sugar and the pod into a syrup, then wipe the pod dry afterwards, and pop it back in the jar – lasts for ages, I think my current pod is about 3 years old and still working.

Ingredients – makes about 400ml, which you dilute 1:3 parts fizzy water
3-4 sticks of rhubarb, cut into 2-3 cm chunks
200g vanilla sugar + equal volume of water
1 vanilla pod – to be re-used
Few drops of beetroot juice for a nice lurid colour
A mean (one finger, one thumb) pinch of citric acid or to taste – but add by only tiny, tiny amounts – optional

Method
Put the rhubarb, sugar, water and vanilla pod into a pan, and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring to the boil for 5 minutes (until the rhubarb is softened) and remove from the heat.
Leave to cool and infuse, remove vanilla pod and wipe off, then strain into a jug through a sieve. Lots of recipes suggest you either leave this to happen really slowly for a really clear cordial, or push the rhubarb against the sieve to extract as much juice as possible – I didn’t bother, because I was planning on using the rhubarb pulp in a smoothie.
Add enough beetroot juice (I used the liquid from a vacuum packed pack of beetroot) to turn it quite a shocking pink – you are going to dilute it, and adjust acid/sugar balance to your taste.

I froze most of mine so I didn’t drink it all at once and make myself sick.