I adore the scent and sight of elderflower – it always fills me with the exciting notion that summer is well and truly on its way. I’ve been making probiotic rich drinks for five years now, and have been doing lots of secondary ferment experiments this past year. My elderflower kombucha is absolutely delicious, very palatable and of course loaded with gut goodness.
What is kombucha and where did it come from?
Kombucha is an ancient beverage, which originated in China over two thousand years ago, and was introduced to Europe in the 1950s. It is made from brewed tea (either a green or black), sugar and a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of acetic acid (vinegar) bacteria and yeast) or “tea fungus” as it’s sometimes referred to.
The fermentation process changes the healthful compounds normally found in tea and turns them into new, even healthier organic compounds. Reports claim drinking kombucha can prevent various types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases, promote liver functionality, and stimulate the immune system.
All kombucha recipes start with a basic booch
- put 1/4cup of organic cane sugar and 4 organic tea bags in a 2L jug or jar (if you are scaling up or down just remember one tablespoon of sugar per tea bag)
- pour over 200ml of boiling water and brew for ten mins
- squeeze out the tea and discard the tea bags
- add 1.5L of cold water
- place your SCOBY on the top
- cover with a piece of kitchen towel or thin cotton cloth and secure with an elastic band
- leave to ferment for 5-10 days, how quickly it ferments will depend on the environment you are keeping your kombucha
- decant the drink and repeat the above for your next batch
To make elderflower kombucha, you will need to second ferment your basic booch
Once you’ve established your basic booch, you’ll be ready to venture into the world of secondary fermentation. This term means fermenting the drink twice, and it’s a fabulous way of adding extra flavour to your drinks. Not to mention squeezing out every drop of nutritional value from the ingredients you are adding.
Simply go through the fermentation process as described previously, then decant into another container, add your extra ingredients, as well as a scrap of SCOBY and leave to ferment for another cycle. For this particular recipe, add one or two fresh elderflower heads to your receptacle before fermenting for the second time.
Dried flowers also work well, and as they shrink in size and intensify in flavour, whilst drying out, you’ll need much less. One tablespoon per batch is enough. If you’re a big fan of elder, like me, I’d urge you to dry out a large bowlful while they are at their peak freshness. Dry them on a sunny windowsill for 1-2 weeks, discard the tough stalks, and store in an airtight glass container once completely dry. Doing this will ensure you can make delicious drinks all year round. As well as elderflower kombucha, you can try elderflower tea with one teaspoon of dried elderflower, topped up with off-the-boil water and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Literally tastes like summer in a cup, and is very warming in the winter.
What’s so great about elderflower?
Elderflowers (and their berries, which come out in the autumn) have an array of powerful health benefits. Including anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, helping to fend off coughs, colds and a whole host of autoimmune problems. They can help with respiratory issues and even lower blood sugars, which is great news for diabetics or women with PCOS, like myself.
Unless you are lucky enough to have elder growing in your garden, you’ll need to forage some from your local area. As with all foraged food, avoid picking from the roadside, because vehicle fumes penetrate through. Most UK parks and little secluded footpaths have an abundance of elderflower growing in May/June. The buttery coloured heads are easy to spot, growing high in the trees. You want to pick them when they are at their ripest (about as large as two fists).
More secondary fermentation ideas
- Fresh ginger and turmeric for an anti-inflammatory boost
- Fresh seasonal foraged fruit such as blackberries and rosehips
- Dried fruit
- Apples and pears
- Seasonal berries
- Pureed exotic fruit such as mango
- Lemongrass and galangal
- Fresh herbs such as mint, rosemary and oregano
- Adaptogenic herbs such as holy basil to help reduce stress
Please note: if you’re adding fruit which has a high sugar content, it can cause a lot of extra fizz. Never screw lids on tight whilst in the early stages of fermentation.