Failing at Pinterest, A Sparkling Elderberry Wine Recipe
Yesterday I decided it was a good day to start some sparkling elderberry wine…. I should have just gone back to bed and had Carson bring home some elderflower liquor.
My plan was to share my recipe which is basically my herbal soda recipe from Sweet Remedies: Healing Herbal Honeys modified just a bit. I had this vision of being like all those super-popular content creators…. Where I would sit this gorgeous glass jar of elder flowers and lemon infusing in the sunshine with a stunningly blue, clear sky as a backdrop. I could see the picture clearly….
What you should know is that real life doesn’t match up to Pinterest.
What follows will be my recipe of how to make the same batch of sparkling elderberry wine that I started yesterday… and today….
Non-Pinterest Sparkling Elderberry Wine Something Something Recipe
- Start with really high expectations of your finished product… this is very important.
- Select a one-gallon glass jar from the shelf in your apothecary. DON’T examine it all… in fact, decide you don’t even need to re-wash it because it’s been stored upside down since it was last washed.
- Decide to double your recipe without having tested whether or not it will fit in your selected glass jar.
- Head out into the dreamy, summer day and leisurely pick about 20 big blossoms of newly bloomed elder. Remember this moment… it will be the only good one of the day.
- Return to the apothecary and heat 8 cups of filtered spring water on the stove. Add 2 pounds (2 2/3 cup) raw honey to your jar and then just as the water is a bit warmer than room temperature, pour the water over the honey.
- Stir the water and honey until the honey dissolves.
- Add ½ cup lemon juice- you could add sliced lemons and juice here, so consider adding them for the brilliant photo shoot you will have later… but decide to leave them out of the actual recipe. The white inner rind of the lemon will add a bitterness to an otherwise light and sweet, sparkly wine. Juice is better.
- Begin cutting the blossoms off the larger stem parts of the flower umbels. You don’t need to be paranoid here, but removing the large stem sections as much as possible will reduce any negative chemical qualities in your final product.
- Notice once or twice as you’re adding blossoms to your liquid mixture that the level of liquid appears to be lower than you remembered…shrug and continue to cut blossoms into the glass container.
- Notice that some of your tiny flowers have dropped behind the jar… and they are floating in water you must of spilled with you filled it originally….
- WAIT!! NO!!! Realize that, in fact, the glass jar you selected has a huge crack in it… and your carefully measured concoction has been slowly leaking out to fill your apothecary counter (under all the tinctures, throughout all the dried materials you had stockpiled for upcoming projects…).
- While your son takes pity on you, (he will walk in right at this moment and see tears of frustration running down your face), and races to mop up the honey, lemon water all over your counter- go in search of something…. ANYTHING… that is big enough in your kitchen to hold the jar contents…. Find a very non-Pinterest, ugly stainless steel canning pot.
- Pour your recipe into the pot.
- Ask your son to estimate how much of your recipe in cups he thinks he’s mopped up…. Absorb the blank, vacant stare.
- Resist the temptation to take a shot of the vodka you use to make tinctures that is now sitting in a puddle of honey, lemon water.
- Estimate a likely amount of lemon, honey and water that has oozed out and splash that in… knowing you will NEVER be able to duplicate this if it comes out delicious.
- Measure out 24 cups of cold water to top off whatever it is you’re making at this point.
- Begin to pour the cold water in and realize that the pot isn’t big enough to hold the whole recipe.
- Pause to cry quietly… for just a few minutes….
- Cover the pot with a tea towel, but for the love of all things holy… DON’T secure it in any way.
- Decide you’ve had enough of today and go to bed… you’ll be fresher and ready to handle this challenge in the morning.
- First thing in the morning, head out to clean a larger pot, sanitize it in the oven and transfer the elderberry flower whatever.
- Find that the tea towel has dipped into the top of the pot and overnight it has soaked the towel and wicked out more of the honey, lemon water combination… which is now a large puddle filling your apothecary counter… that you just cleaned yesterday from the same mess….
- Pause to cry quietly… reconsider your life’s work… contemplate retirement.
- Dump the entire mystery recipe into the new, larger pan, fill with the remaining water that the original recipe called for.
- Put a lid on.
- Sit for 48 hours, stirring occasionally until bubbly.
Truthfully, you don’t need to make this into a wine. You can stop this recipe after the third or fourth day and put it in the fridge. It will likely be a very tasty soda… I’ll let you know if what I’ve created is… but what you create will definitely be good.
After the first 48 hours and things start to bubble you will want to transfer the strained mix to either a few grolsch style bottles (for soda) or a glass carboy with an airlock on top.
To make soda you will check your bottles… often… and “burp” them by opening the tops. If you don’t do this, the bottles might explode and create a stick mess (see step #11 above). When there is a good level of carbonation, put them in the fridge to chill and drink them in the next few days.
To make wine, you can either use the grolsch style bottles or pour it into a carboy- your choice. This is not a long fermented wine because we’re not looking for a high alcohol level. This is going to be pretty active due to the natural yeasts in the flowers, so it should ferment past the soda stage pretty quickly. Let your wine ferment on the counter for about a week. With the airlock and carboy you don’t need to monitor it like you do the glass bottles to prevent a sticky mess (see step #11 above). I like the insurance of something that self-burps. After a week, bottle the wine and place it in the refrigerator for another week. It should now be ready to enjoy while you remember all the fun of making your own wine…
The Real Recipe
Adapted from pg. 69 of Sweet Remedies: Healing Herbal Honeys
- 2-3 cups of fresh elderflower blooms (about 18-20 large)
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 8 cups warmed water
- 24 cups cold water
- 2 pounds raw honey (2 2/3 cup)
- Add honey to a bowl or glass jar.Warn about 1 quart of pure spring water. You need to be careful with your water source for this kind of fermentation. You can’t use chlorinated or fluoridated city water.
- Pour the warmed water over honey. Stir well.
- Add your trimmed elder blossoms, lemon juice and the remaining water.
- Cover the opening of the container with butter muslin, a tea towel or a coffee filter secured with a rubber band.
- Stir 3-4 times a day. You should see bubbling starting between days 2-4.
- Once your soda begins to bubble, strain and transfer it to grolsch style stoppered bottles. Allow your beverage to ferment at room temperature for another 12-24 hours and then move to the refrigerator for storage if you are stopping at soda.
- If you’re making wine, allow the room-temperature fermentation to continue for a week. Burping grolsch style bottles often, or use a carboy and airlock.
- After one week, move the wine to the refrigerator and continue fermentation for another week. Again, if in bottles, burp occasionally.
- At the end of the second week, you should be ready to enjoy!