While not true Champagne (which must be produced in the French region of the same name), this sparkling elderflower drink is a lighter, very tasty alternative. The perfumed flowers flavour the effervescent tipple, but do keep in mind the drink is alcoholic, so it's strictly for adults!
15 sprigs of fresh elderflower
2l boiling water
3 lemons, peel sliced off in strips
5g of yeast, (buy champagne yeast from homebrewing shops or websites)
10 litre container
2L plastic bottle (4)
Clean the elderflower heads, removing any dead flowers, cobwebs and insects.
Dissolve the sugar in 2 litres of boiling water, then cover and set aside until cool.
Once the sugar syrup has cooled to room temperature, pour it into a large, clean 10 litre container. Add the rest of the water, the lemon peel, the juice from 1 of the lemons, the elderflowers and the champagne yeast. Give the mixture a good stir, cover with a muslin cloth and leave to ferment at room temperature for 3–4 days. Give it a little stir everyday – you will notice it starting to fizz and bubble as the fermentation process begins.
For this next stage, you will need 4x 2-litre plastic screw top bottles and a funnel. It is important to use plastic bottles, as the fermentation process produces carbon dioxide, which is what makes your ‘champagne’ sparkling but can also make bottles explode. The plastic bottles (as opposed to glass ones) have a little give so can expand a little, plus the screw-top lid isn’t as airtight as a cork.
Pass the champagne through a muslin cloth, then decant into the bottles using a funnel. Tightly screw on the lids. The second stage of fermentation occurs in the sealed bottles and is what gives your champagne its fizz; carbon dioxide builds up and has nowhere to go, so it lies in wait for when the bottle is opened, causing that rush of bubbles. As mentioned, this can cause bottles to explode, so even though using plastic bottles minimises the risk, it is still safe to store them in a cool dry place like an outdoor shed or garage. Placing something over the bottles such as a cardboard box is a good idea to reduce the sticky mess if one does burst.
Leave the bottles for another few days, checking each day and carefully opening each lid to let some of the gas escape if needed. After a couple of days the second fermentation should have finished, but storing them in a cold room or the fridge will stop the fermentation completely.
Enjoy the refreshing sparkling drink as it is or serve with tonic water, ice and a sprig of mint.