I approached this recipe for Booze for Free in the same way that I’d approach making a curry. With a curry you know the basis and so can experiment with other ingredients without really worrying that what you get will be unedible. I’d been making elderflower champagne for years and understood that although the elderflowers were used for their yeast that other flowers might work too. I searched through my library and picked up a copy of Homemade Root Beer, Soda and Pop by Stephen Cresswell. A great book which helped inspire some the drinks in Booze for Free. I saw a recipe for dandelion Champagne which helped my thirst for experiementation (and new drinks). I decided I’d go for a walk along the river and just pick whatever edible flowers were around it was the autumn so autumn flower champagne was born.
A few months later I was teaching Alan Titchmarsh to make some on his show. The crew were a lovely bunch and watching the man himself at work I could see why he’s at the top of his game. He was a nice fella too and I’m not just saying that to be some kind of media lovely. He made me feel at ease and just before the cameras were rolling he turned to me and said, “Passion Andy, passion” and that did seem to help!
Autumn flower Champagne
The Himalayan balsam flowers add a real colour to this most flavoursome, champagne making it blush a bright pink.
3 litres/6 pints of water
1 kg/2lb sugar
1 litre/2 pints of balsam flowers
500mls/1 pint of red clover flowers
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tsp citric acid
2 tsp lemon juice
champagne yeast (as back up)
Wash the flowers to ensure that they are bug free. Place into bucket with all the other ingredients apart from sugar. Cover with half the water and give a stir. Meanwhile bring the rest of the water to the boil and stir in the sugar. Add that to the rest of the mix.
Leave with lid loosely on or a tea towel over the top occasionally returning in order to give it a stir. After two to four days it should have started to fizz when it does filter through muslin cloth into bottles. Put the bottles straight into the fridge or release the gas from them daily as they can be prone to exploding.
If the wild yeasts refuse to play ball after a couple of days then pitch a champagne yeast instead. If you can’t find enough red clover and blasam flowers experiment with any wild edible flowers, dandelion, mustard even white nettle flowers can all be used.