Elderflower Fizz (Non-Alcoholic)

Elderflower fizz (Non-alcoholic)
elderflower, or white flower from the elder tree
Elderflower fizz has a subtle floral essence, is sweet tasting refreshing effervescent drink with a tang of lemon. It is simple to make and is ready to drink in a few weeks. The recipe can easily be adapted to make a champagne with the same ingredients with the addition of one ingredient champagne yeast. We will post this separately.
*** For the recipe to work, it is critical that the flowers be gathered on a dry sunny day, as these conditions are necessary to preserve the wild yeast that is present on the flowers. ***
1 gallon (4.5 litres) water
Rind of 1 lemon & juice
1.5 lbs (700g) raw organic sugar
2 tbsps (30ml) white wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar can be used)
12 head of elderflowers
1. Bring the water to the boil. Pour into a sterilised container, add sugar, stirring until dissolved.
2. When cool, add the juice and rind of the lemon, vinegar and elderflowers. Cover with several layers of muslin clothe and leave for 24 hours.
3. Pour through a sporage bag or muslin clothe into strong glass bottles. Stir out of direct sunlight, at room temperate for two weeks.
Don’t be tempted to check for gas formation as this tends to spoil the end result.
Small amounts of alcohol may be present in a soft drink, but the alcohol content must be less than 0.5% of the total volume. if the drink is to be considered non-alcoholic. This will be slightly alcoholic and by definition a non-alcoholic soft drink. Consider this most soft drinks are slightly alcoholic including coca-cola and pepsi, because of fermentation of the sugars.  Effervescent usually means it has dissolved gas or a reaction chemically within the drink forms gas.  As few soft drinks today are fermented, most are artificially gassed through carbonation.  In the fermentation process sugar is digested by yeast and a one of the by products of this process is carbon dioxide.  Few manufactures want their products to continue fermenting, as this would affect its shelf life, risk the product exploding and exceed mandated alcohol content. When you are depending on natural yeast, it can be hit and miss.  You might not get any, get a large amount, or very active yeast and this can affect results.  If stored will continue to ferment and generate more alcohol and gas, therefore it should be consumed after it has sat for two weeks.  If you don’t there is a risk of the bottle exploding.
Thanks to Dave Clarke for this explanation and his experience.
“No need to add yeast you have natural yeasts in the flowers and the sugar feeds the yeast to produce alcohol and the by product is carbon dioxide bubbles (fizz). The citric acid in the lemon juice and the acetic acid in the vinegar helps the fermentation along ad stop nasty bacteria from spoiling the product. The longer the natural fermentation lasts the more pressure you will get in the bottles along with a higher alcohol content and it is advised to release the pressure every couple of days to minimise the chance of them exploding. I make mine in a pressure barrel. If you don’t want alcohol in it you need to reduce the sugar by at least half and drink it within the fortnight suggested in the text to produce it or alternatively store it in a fridge, as the cold will stop the fermentation.”

The Joys of Footing Turf

The hedgerows are awash with colour and fragrance. At this time of year the flowering of the elder is a pleasant reminder of the time ahead to be spent working on the bog. The turf has been cut and now it just needs a couple of weeks to dry out, ready to be footed (stacked in piles) to lift it off the ground to help it dry. It’s become an annual event that is eagerly anticipated. Working on the bog is a meditation to us. Whilst there, you can forget about the troubles in your life and in the world and be in the moment. The other people who share the bog are friendly and helpful, offering each other assistance in footing, bagging and getting the turf home. People bring food and drink with them and sometimes gather together, sharing food and stories, enjoying the fine weather.  People of all ages come to the bog and from many different professions and walks of life.  It’s nice to see families coming together, sharing labour and time spent working as a unit.
Burning turf is a very economical way to heat your home. Costing around 1Euro per yard. The average row being 80 yards. 3 – 6 rows are usually sufficient to supply most homes.
Bog owners, form the turf using two main methods, which both result in several strings of long continuous sausages being laid on the ground.
One method uses a hopper, which is filled by digging down several feet into the bog using a digger, where the turf mould as it called is darkest and when dried burns best. The hopper is filled and then pulled along by a tractor with a device that forms the sausages and lays them out on top of the cleared bog. The other method is almost identical except, the process is continuous, the tractor pulls a machine behind, which puts a probe down into the bog, which is depth set and this probe feeds the dark turf mould to a former which lays the turf sausages out on the ground.
Rows of turf, drying, ready to be footed.
Turf is essentially dead and decaying plant matter, that is compressed, dried out and burnt as fuel. It forms continuously when new plant matter, grows and old plant matter dies. An average bog can grow a depth of around 2″ every year. So it could be fair to say that turf is a renewable resource.
Traditionally there were two different types of turf used in homes. Black and then brown turf. Black was used for cooking and heating as it generated good heat, whereas brown turf, was used traditionally in some parts to keep a fire smouldering throughout the day, when little heat was required and no cooking was being done.
Some bog owners will offer both types but most only cut of form black turf.
Once footed the turf takes up to 6 weeks to dry out sufficiently before it is ready to be taken home. Like any fuel, it needs to be sheltered from the elements, to help it dry further. Turf that is left for up to a year in dry storage, burns very well.
Footings or stoops of turf, drying before being taken home
Finding a bog owner who cuts and sells rows isn’t difficult.  Many advertise at agricultural fairs and events, and in local publications or talk to someone in your locality who burns and uses turf.
The smell is unique and not unpleasant. In fact for me it brings back happy memories of holidaying in Rossnowlagh, County Donegal.
Growing up in a County where not many bogs are suitable for turf cutting, the tradition was alien to me. There is not much skill required as the modern machinery does away with cutting the turf by hand. If you physically able to stack the turf in small stacks and carry bags or wheel a wheel barrow then you are capable.  Boots or wellington’s are a must and wellingtons are preferable to boots as the acidic soil in the bog tends to cause the glue and stitching to come undone.  Something to kneel on such as a bag with clothe inside is useful.  Rubberised gloves, such as those used in construction.  A suitable hat/cap to protect you from the sun and clothing for all weather types, c’mon folks it is Ireland, remember.  And don’t forget the packed lunch.
Sadly the tradition of turf cutting is under threat, if you would like to learn more. Visit the TCCA