A Little Christmas Tipple…..

Being a thrifty kinda gal, I love a good freebie. Mother nature is generous indeed and if you know where to look, when to look and what to look for…..then hedgerows, woodland and fields (so long as you’re not trespassing!!) are great sources of fruits, herbs, berries and more.  The whole foraging thing is such fun to me and an area I really want to learn more about. For instance, when it comes to wild mushrooms? I see them all the time but wouldn’t have a clue and knowing my luck I’d end up picking something hallucinogenic, or worse! Some berries can be toxic too. So I err on the side of caution for now (I have a few foraging books on my wishlist!) and stick to what I know. My favourite summer tipple is to make Elderflower champagne. OMG, if you haven’t tasted the stuff before, oh how you have missed out. It’s heavenly on a summers day and oh so simple to make. Alas, I totally missed the boat this year.

Our weird seasons this year, meant that the Elderflowers came out much earlier. There was so little sunshine (essential to release the fragrance) and they went over so quickly that I didn’t have a chance to gather my supplies and free a space in my day to make it. So, I decided instead to wait patiently for the subsequent berries to ripen and try my hand at some Elderberry Wine instead. So when my step mum was visiting at the weekend we picked these (with permission of course) from our neighbours tree. Just look at the colours……..

As luck would have it, my step mum used to be an avid winemaker so knew just the right technique to get the berries off the stalks……

Even the bare stalks are gorgeous to look at. I love this time of year for it’s stunning colour palette…

Eventually you end up with a bowl of  beautful shiny Elderberries (pick out any remaining stalk)

This is the recipe I’m following….

Elderberry Wine
There are any number of recipes for elderberry wine, but this one can be drunk either hot or cold.
  • 1 kg (approx 2lb) elderberries, stripped from stems
  • 4 1/2 litres (one gallon) of water
  • 454g (1lb) of raisins
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Six cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of wine yeast (eg, Burgundy)
  • 150 ml (1/4 pint) of brandy
  1. Rinse the berries in cold water, and place them in a large plastic container. It’s essential to remove every last piece of stalk, which can impart a bitter taste to the wine.
  2. Boil the water, pour it over the berries and leave it to stand for 24 hours.
  3. Press the mixture through a muslin cloth.
  4. Put the juice and all the other ingredients, apart from the brandy and yeast, into a preserving pan and simmer gently for an hour, skimming when necessary.
  5. Allow the mixture to cool and, when it is lukewarm, stir in the yeast. Transfer it into a fermentation jar, top up, fit an air lock and leave to stand in the dark for two weeks.
  6. Rack off into a clean vessel and add the brandy. Then siphon off into clean, corkable wine bottles.
This wine is best if allowed to mature for a few months – so Christmas is a good time to bring it out.
It’s all “blup-blup’ing” away in the Demijohns as we speak. I shall let you know how I get on. It’s either going to be really really gorgeous…..or really really bad head inducing. We shall see..;)
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  1. Elisalex October 4, 2011

    Wow this looks amazing! Big on foraging myself – and picking wild anything is always so much fun with kids. I’m about to break out my raspberry vodka that’s been, um, maturing, since June! x

  2. Debi October 4, 2011

    Yummy! That looks AMAZING!!!

  3. A.J.A. October 4, 2011

    Ooooh! Lovely! I am a sister forager! We have picked wild grapes up on the mountains for juice, but I haven’t tried wine yet. Those elderberries are such a lovely color! Have you checked out the book Stalking the Wild Asparagus? I bet you’d like it.

  4. Claire Cooper October 4, 2011

    I love foraging, My Hubby and I spent saturday collecting elderberries and rosehips. now have elderberry wine on the go, and rosehip syrup made. this is to add to the supplies of – cassis, damson vodka, sloe wine, rhubarb wine, elderflower wine, damson wine, home made ginger beer, lemonade, cider, plum and damson jam. just what to do with the 3kg of apples and the freezer full of summer fruits.

  5. didyoumakethat October 5, 2011

    We have a huge elderberry tree at the bottom of the garden, and I never know what to do with those berries. They don’t seem to be out now, though. Next year!

  6. Scruffybadger October 5, 2011

    I too havE missed the boat but will follow avidly! Maybe my memory will kick in at gathering time cos this recipe looks gorgeous- surely hangover free? Reminds me of brambly hedges ! And my mum used to make wine, the forks bring it all back . Good luck!!

  7. EddieDuckling October 5, 2011

    Oh I am so jealous. I love elderberry cordial and made some last year but this year the stupid birds ate all the berries on my mothers tree. Humph!
    Good luck with the wine though! Hope it tastes as lovely as it sounds.
    They are also great to dye with. I did that last year with some I found by a busy road (didn’t want to use them for a drink).


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