Birch Syrup and Water –by Jim Freed
If you have any of these birch tree species you can make your own birch syrup or birch water. Betula nigra – river birch, Betula papyrifera – paper birch, Betula pendula – silver or white birch.
You can start tapping your trees any time from when the leaves fall until the new buds break. The best results will occur when the night-time temperatures are below freezing and the day time temperatures are between 40 and 50 degrees. When you get 3 or more days of this kind of weather the sap will flow.
If this is your first attempt to produce sap for use, I suggest that you only produce one tap. Each tap on a healthy tree over 11” in diameter will produce between 25 and 50 gallons of sap. If you are going to boil this down for syrup or candy it will produce about a third of a gallon of syrup.
Make sure you do your cooking outside. The steam that is generated by the process (50 gallons of water boiled) will coat the interior of your home with a sticky film.
Cooking of the sap must be done in a way that is similar to making candy. Start with an even heat source and a heavy pan or kettle (iron best) that heats slowly and retains the heat. A watchful eye is necessary to keep it from sticking and burning and to determine when it’s done.
If you do not want to make syrup, you can just use the sap. In Russia and Northern European countries Birch water is a great winter drink. The sap can be used fresh out of the tree or it can be pasteurized to remove any pests that may lie within the sap. If you use an open bucket system you will need to at least filter out the leaves etc. Some producers will also carbonate the water and bottle it for sale.
Start small. See if you like it and then share with your family and friends.
This is a great project to do with all ages, especially kids. Grandkids love to sample the fresh products and the finished syrup. You can make snow cones with Birch syrup topping for a great outdoor treat.