Elderberry is a great plant! Not only can you use the flowers to make elderberry soda and elderberry sparkling wine, you can also bake the flowers in batter. Or wait a little longer and cook elderberry soup from the fruit, also called lilac berry soup in northern Germany. My grandmother always used to make it in the summer, with lots of love and lots of semolina dumplings.
This is what summer tastes like! Elderberry lemonade is a tangy, fermented midsummer drink.
At the latest around summer solstice, the elderberry blossoms. Even as you pass by, the large umbels entice you with their delicious smell. You can buy them rarely, it is best to pick them yourself. Far away from busy roads, the blossoms are certainly of better quality than on the highway. Many have elderberry bushes in their garden, just ask your neighbors. In return, you can give them a bottle of elderberry lemonade.
When picking wild flowers, please observe the traditional practices.
- Respect nature.
- Take only as much as you need.
- Always leave a few plants so they can reproduce.
- Animals also like blossoms, do not steal their feed in excess.
- Nature reserves are of course off limits.
- For collecting a basket is suitable, there the plants are not crushed.
Once you've collected the blossoms, you can set about making your own elderberry soda or elderberry champagne.
This recipe makes 1.5 liters of beverage. Whether it becomes elderberry lemonade or elderberry sparkling wine depends on the fermentation time. But it will have at least 0.5% alcohol. That is as much as would still be permitted by law in Germany for non-alcoholic beer.
How to control the alcohol content of elderberry lemonade?
The natural yeasts on the flowers combined with the sugars are very powerful nutrition for alcoholic fermentation. To calculate the alcohol content, the basic formula is
C6H12O6 ➩ 2(CH3CH2OH) + 2(CO2) + energy
sugar (glucose) ➩ alcohol (ethanol) + carbon dioxide + energy
The type of yeast also regulates the maximum alcohol content. It is lower for brewer's yeast than for wine yeast. The wild yeast strains on the flowers are of course not controllable, so that fermentation by-products or final alcohol content are rather difficult to predict. In addition, fermentable sugars sit on the blossoms, the amount of which cannot be determined. In general, less sugar and a shorter fetmentation time produce less alcohol. So if you give the first fermentation only 24h of time and then give the lemonade only one more day to carbonate, you will usually have no more than about 1% alcohol in your drink.
Elderberry soda and elderberry sparkling wine
- 1 2-liter vessel
- 1 dishtowel or cloth napkin
- 1 large rubber band
- 3 0.5-liter swing top bottles
- 1,5 liter water
- 20 umbels elderflowers [large]
- 120 grams sugar [* If you use white household sugar, your drink will be just slightly yellowish and wonderfully transparent. Raw cane sugar gives a distinct cloudiness and a fine caramel aroma. Honey or fructose can also be used - your taste decides. ]
- 1 lemon [ Lemon serves as an aid against mold in the fermentation process and enhances the flavor with slight acidity. Do not leave it out. ]
- After collecting the elderflower umbels, leave them for a while. This gives the small critters that live in them time to escape. Then the drink will also be vegan. Shorten the stems, too much gives an undesirable aftertaste. They also contain a small amount of the glycoside sambunigrin, which releases cyanide. Not so much that you need to worry, but the less green, the better.
- Cut the lemon into slices.
- Mix water and sugar well in a suitable fermentation vessel, for example a large, old cucumber jar. Add elderflowers and lemon slices. Place the elderflowers loosely in the jar, do not squeeze, stir well and place in a warm place, for example in the kitchen next to the stove.
- In the first days of fermentation, the yeast needs most of its energy to multiply. Since oxygen is needed for this, I always stir diligently. If you immediately deprive the yeast of oxygen, fermentation takes many longer and can only progress slowly.
- Do not forget to cover it with a cloth, critters should not be able to get into the elderberry brew.
- Let the mixture stand for one, maximum two days. Please do not let it stand longer, the drink gets a musty aftertaste due to a too long first fermentation.
- Filter with a fine sieve and pour into the bottles. The filling level should be at the base of the neck of the bottles, so that there is enough space for the carbon dioxide to develop. It is important that you use sturdy quality swing-top bottles that can withstand the pressure created during fermentation.
- Keep the bottles in a warm place for a day. To be on the safe side, I like to spread a kitchen towel over them - even if a bottle gives way to the pressure, I don't have any shrapnels in the house.
After a day, there is already plenty of carbonic acid, but only very little alcohol, so that the drink is now an elderberry soda. It is still quite sweet. Burp each bottle once, which means opening it slightly and releasing the pressure. Then store the bottles in a cool place, preferably away from light. I have a dedicated ferment refrigerator for this. If I didn't have that, I would put the bottles in the basement. Here, too, explosions can be made less dangerous by placing a cloth or cardboard box over the bottles.
Elderberry sparkling wine
While the sugar in the drink is slowly broken down, the alcohol content increases during fermentation. Unopened, the sparkling wine can be kept for at least one year if stored in a cool place and protected from light.