The Stingers and the Flowers

The Winter sucks. It’s not all bad but by the time I am finished at work it is very dark, weekends are here one minute and then literally gone the next… generally I feel starved of being outdoors.

The Spring months are great. With longer warmer days the life cycle is starting over. The lambs, the daff’s the Easter eggs all signify new life and with that the first of natures crop is ready for harvesting; Birch sap.

This year I collected a couple of litres, drank half of that and had no idea really what to do with the rest so it sadly went to waste. I felt bad for the tree I ‘stole’ it from. I hate unnecessary waste.

This lost opportunity made me determined to succeed with my next wild beverages – nettle beer and elderflower wine.

My first batch of nettle beer failed due to yeast not working. It wasnt stored in a warm place. It turned out as a nettle syrup. Nice for a moment, then overpoweringly sickly sweet. Lesson learnt, but gutted.

Second time around, keen to follow the recipe to the letter resulted in an awesome brew. It had fizz of champagne proportions and if you were too quick to remove the cap, then the rest of the beer followed the cap skywards and you were lucky to have a sip left. You have to treat each bottle like a motion triggered bomb. One false move and your garden / kitchen / lounge is going to be wearing the drink.

It tasted / tastes beautiful. On reflection; next time I might try using more nettle tops for a stronger flavour. I can easily drink one and truly enjoy it, but because it is still a little sweet I couldn’t go 2 or 3 pints.

Bottles of every size accommodating my precious produce.

Alcohol content is unknown. I am just a beginner so yet to get into the hydrometers, dipping and the exact science of it all. I’d put it at a few percent, but it is far from ‘powerful’.

The elderflower wine is looking real good and very pleasurable to make. Collecting a bag full of elderflowers beats a bag full of nettles any day but both have a lovely smell.

Last year I produced a good non-alcoholic (possibly some small levels) elderflower ‘wine’ which was better than anything you can buy. I was so proud. This time I want to give it an alcohol kick so I am hoping things go to plan.

I have added some wine yeast to ensure there is the required science in motion and if Freecycle comes goodwith some plastic bottles then I hope to bottle it end of this week.Just in time for my birthday on Sunday.I have held back some nettle beer, 2 litres of last years elderflower (good as a mixer) and hopefully will have some ‘proper’ elderflower to offer my guests at my woodland birthday gathering. I am cooking a leg of venison and hope that my local hedgerow offerings will be the cherry on top.

Andy Hamilton’s has a good recipy for both nettles and elderflower so check them out on the links below, but I also recommend his book; Booze for Free – Amazon £6.60.

About James G

It's a bit of this, and a little of that. Nothing fancy. You're welcome to it.
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