Nettle beer and elderflower champagne

There is something so satisfying about making your own foods and drinks that it can be a little hard to describe the emotions to those who have not tried it themselves. This is especially true when it comes to slow and hidden processes like fermentation, where mysterious enzymes are at work instead of more obvious things like fire and heat. Here at the Macrobiotic Shop we have fallen in love with fermentation in all its strange and wonderful ways. If you come round to visit you are likely to find at least two or three things bubbling quietly away under the stairs or in the airing cupboard.

We can’t wait to see how this turns out

Whether it’s kimchi, sauerkraut, sake, sourdough, pickles or sake, all use various forms of fermentation to turn some otherwise fairly dull foodstuffs into wonderful new things to enjoy. Our customers also understand the benefits as well as the enjoyment, as natto spores and koji are two of our most popular products, along with pickle presses.

But last week we decided to try something quite different and fun for the summer: cool and refreshing nettle beer and elderflower champagne. Nettles really are a wondrous plant, full of amazing health benefits and also perennials which are widely available, even in major cities. We have used nettles for tea, steamed with vegetables and also as part of a really excellent pesto. But they can also form part of a very good and refreshing light beer.

Nettles in the pot, ready to start forming the ‘wort’

The elder tree requires more careful observation. In spring the buds work well as part of a tempura (see our previous post – a wild stir fry). Now is the time to harvest the flowers, which also work well in a tempura but can become the central part of elderflower champagne.

Elderflowers, you’ll only need between 10 and 20!

Both drinks are very easy to make and have filled us with excitement and anticipation as we watch them evolve from wild plants we picked a few days ago into something cool and refreshing for the warm evenings to come. We kept our recipes very simple, just using some of the excellent nettle tips we harvested locally and the elderflowers which will be in abundance for the next few weeks.

In place of the cane sugar which forms part of most recipes, we suggest substituting with either maple syrup of coconut palm sugar. Sugar is essential in order to create the alcohol, but we think using coconut palm sugar gives our elderflower champagne a nice dark colour and a more robust flavour. For the nettle beer we used maple syrup, although you may need slightly more maple syrup than the sugar most recipes call for in order to get the right level of fermentation going. However other sugars such as rice syrup, spelt syrup or malt syrup should all work, we haven’t had time to try them yet!

Why not enjoy your summer evening or weekend a little more and connect with the plants in your immediate area by trying out one of these ancient British/Celtic health-giving drinks?

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