Home brewing

by Ollie, 07/08/2014

You'd think after all the foraging we've been doing lately there would be no elderflowers left in the County, but we left enough for some elderberries to be foraged later in the year.
We had a big pile of elderflowers anyway, so I thought I'd have a go at making elderflower wine.
I haven't tried making wine before so it is very much an experiment, but it seems like a lot of fun. The good old internet is full of websites that will tell you how to make elder flower wine. I used this one myself: www.farminmypocket.co.uk/featured/elderflower-wine-recipe
If the wine turns out to be beautiful I'm going to give them all the credit, if it's rubbish I'll have to blame it on my poor skills.

Elderflower wine making seems simple enough. All the ingredients, apart from the elderflowers, and materials I used can be bought in your local supermarket. The most important thing is to make sure all the gear you use is properly cleaned.
And the most important ingredient? Patience.

The ingredients I used are:

- elderflowers
- bread yeast
- sultanas
- a lemon
- sugar
- strong tea
- water

The process starts with adding water to the elderflowers, sultanas, lemon zest + juice, sugar and the tea, in a brewing bin (or in my case a large sauce pan). This mixture has to sit for a couple of days, gently stirring it every now and again.

Then the yeast needs to be added. The yeast will convert the sugar into alcohol and CO2, i.e. fermentation. After a couple of days of brewing and bubbling in the bin, the brew can be transferred to a demijohn (in my case a 5 liter water bottle from Supervalu). I used a muslin and strainer to separate the flowers and fruit from the liquid.

Once in the demijohn the wine has to sit until fermentation has stopped, which will take about 6 weeks. During this period no air should be allowed in to the demijohn. In order to achieve this without the bottle exploding (the yeast is after all producing CO2), an airlock needs to be fitted.
I don't have a proper airlock so I had to do a bit of a McGiver and make one using caps from water bottles, cotton wool, super glue and the bottom of a silicone cupcake case.
It actually works letting air out but not in.

When fermentation has stopped the wine has to be siphoned off into another demijohn, leaving the spent yeast behind. The wine will then have to be left undisturbed until it clears before it can be bottled. This can take a couple of weeks. 
Patience is required indeed.

My wine has been fermenting for about three weeks now. It will be at least another month before I can tell whether I have produced a deadly potion or a beautiful elderflower wine... 

A little bit of strong tea is added to get some tannin.

Simple household bread yeast, it remains to be seen how much it will affect the taste though.

Really, is this supposed to be wine? After the yeast was added.

I wrapped the saucepan with the brew in a layer of kitchen paper and then a layer of tin foil to keep the temperature of the brew as even as possible.

This is what the brew looked like after a couple of days of fermentation.

My home made non-return valve. Astonishingly it works.

Preparing the transfer to the demijohn.

The brew after the transfer to the demijohn. It looks a bit milky and has a caramel colour, but it has since cleared a bit and is now gently bubbling away. So far so good...  

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