Nothing in the forager’s calendar is more seasonal than birch sap. Blackberries, wild garlic and most other wild foods are around for months; with birch sap you have two weeks, three at the most. In Dorset, where I live, it is approximately the middle two weeks of March, but it can be slightly earlier or later, depending on the weather. It may seem a little early to talk about it now but you do need to be prepared for birch tapping – mentally, physically and administratively – so I am giving you a head start.
I am going to come clean. I do not see the point of birch sap wine. With most alcoholic drinks the ingredients are there to provide the flavour or the sugar and sometimes both. Birch sap wine contains very little of either so it cannot do these things – it just supplies the water. But I know that a lot of people swear by the stuff and will disagree with my dismissal of what they consider to be a first class wine. If you like birch sap wine let me know and tell me why I am wrong. No, really.
Having said all that, I do love collecting birch sap so, apart from the odd batch of wine to remind myself how right I am, I make birch sap syrup to pour on my pancakes. I boil the fresh sap down until half of the water has gone, then transfer to a bain-marie (to stop it “burning”) and continue until only 10% is left. I then strain out all the bits through some muslin and add sugar to form the syrup. You can reduce it all the way to a syrup (less than 2% of what you started with!) without adding the sugar but the flavour is far too strong and bitter for most people.
So how do you go about collecting this arcane ingredient? First, of course, you will need to find some mature silver birch trees with trunks at least 25cm in diameter (downy birch won’t work) and obtain permission to drill holes in them from the owner – not always easy. (The ones outside the Tate Modern in London are too small, by the way).
You’ll also need some kit. A hand drill and drill bit, a bucket to collect the sap (I sometimes use a four litre milk container with a hole strategically cut in the side near the top), some tapered wooden plugs (candle waxed at the sharper end to seal them), a mallet and something to carry the sap home in.
You will also need some spigots or spiles. These are virtually impossible to obtain in the UK so you will have to find them online from Canada or the US where they are uses for sugar maple tapping. You can rig up something with tubes and pipes but I have never been able to stop it all leaking. Check, using a scrap of wood, that your plugs and spiles tightly match the drill bit you will be taking with you.
Tapping birch sap. Photograph: John Wright
Off to the woods. Drill a slightly upward slanting 5cm deep hole into your chosen tree at waist height. If nothing comes out when you are half way in, the tree is dry. Stop drilling, hammer in a plug and try another tree. After three no-shows it will be worth waiting another week. If all is well, hammer in a spile, hook on your bucket through the little hole you will have made in the rim and cover it. Come back the next day to collect your sap – if you are lucky you will get about two to three litres from each tree. Very carefully plug the holes – if you don’t the sap will continue to flow and the poor tree may not recover from this added insult.
Birch sap tastes almost exactly like water – but the freshest water you have ever tasted, with just a hint of sweetness (0.7% sugar is the highest I have ever found). It does not keep very long – about four days in the fridge – so use it as soon as you can. Here is how you make the wine.
4.5 litres of birch sap
200ml white grape juice concentrate
Juice from two lemons
1.2 kg white sugar
Sachet white wine yeast
Yeast nutrient – follow instructions on packet
Gently heat the sap in a pan with the lid on to 75C and keep at that temperature for 20 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Closely cover the pan and allow to cool. Transfer to a fermentation bucket and add the lemon juice, grape juice concentrate, yeast and yeast nutrients.
Keep the bucket closely covered for five days then siphon into a demi-john, fit the bubble-trap and leave for about two months. Rack-off into a fresh demi-john and bottle when it is all nice and clear. This stuff goes bad for a pastime, so be extra careful making sure everything is sterile and the bottles well sealed.
The flavour? Light, dry, fruity, with a faint piquancy of wet paper bag.
Kvass from birch juice is very useful natural drink that has medicinal properties and has a beneficial effect on the human body.
It helps in the treatment and prevention of various diseases, are useful for the work of the digestive organs. The kvass from birch juice perfectly quenches thirst.
The website tasty-meals.com will tell you how to make kvass from birch SAP on a very simple recipe.
Kvass from birch juice with raisins – ingredients:
- 10 liters of birch SAP,
- 50 PCs. of raisins,
- 400 grams of sugar.
Kvass from birch juice – the recipe:
If you prepare a brew of birch juice in the home, it is advisable not to use plastic utensils. Better take a glass or enameled container. Birch juice strain through several layers of cheesecloth to clean it of debris. Add raisins, sugar and leave to ferment in a cool place. After 3-4 days the kvass is ready. Then strain the brew, corked the bottle and put in a dark cool place for long-term storage.
Kvass from birch SAP can be stored until the autumn.
See videorecipe how to make frozen fruit juice:
Birch sap as it is
About what birch sap tastes, perhaps, know all, but not all realize that even in Soviet times, it was not very natural, if only because his shelf life withoutheat treatment of only a couple of days.But drinking natural birch sap is very, very useful, because MirSovetov offers to arm our advice and go into the forest for his prey.
Birch sap – one of the first nectars that nature gives us.It is filled with vitamins and trace elements, so necessary after a long winter.He is able to strengthen the immune system, cleanse the blood and the body of toxins.Birch juice improves metabolism, gastrointestinal tract, diuretic, cleanses the kidneys because of the sand and is very useful for phosphaturia.
Of course, he has a few contraindications, or rather, more for a consultation with your doctor if you are allergic to birch pollen, stomach ulcers and kidney stones, urate-marked stones.
Birch like water filters, when it begins to absorb moisture from the soil, it passes it through the crown
of your leaflets, enriching the water.When the process begins (yet it is called Sap), it’s time to collect the juice.When collecting juice from a healthy young tree can observe a clear liquid, very pleasant to the taste.
How to determine the right time to collect the juice
Depending on the region, which is going to juice, sap flow in the trees begins at different times.It also depends on whether the weather is necessary.It happens that the winter has been delayed for several weeks in the cold sap flow occurs much later.
Determine willingness to share their tree sap can be as his kidneys.Remember that you need to start gathering at the beginning of sap flow, and to finish by the time the buds bloom: at this time the liquid becomes turbid.To determine the start of this period, it is not necessary to go into the forest, you just go to the nearest birch and observe for its branches: until all the buds on her dry sense to go there, and they begin to swell a bit, it’s time to run for the woods.
necessary to consider that in the city a little warmer than in the forest because of the trees in the urban sap flow begins earlier for 2-3 days.It continues it about 2-3 weeks.Also, its intensity depends on the tree, and from where it is located (lowland, hill), and the taste may depend on the age of the birch.
How to collect birch sap
I would like first of all to note that the collection of birch sap in any case does not involve barbaric methods with axes!MirSovetov calls to protect nature and value, and its actions do not harm the tree that shares with you the most valuable thing he has.
So, careful (this word we place special emphasis) collect the juice you need:
- drill with a drill diameter of 5-10 mm;
- several plastic tar (ideally – polutoralitrovyh bottles).They are convenient for the fact that they do not get the garbage and just awakened insects;
- metal tubes with a diameter should match the drill length of 5 cm;
- rubber tubes suitable for metal;
Select several trees, but you can not damage the tree with a diameter of less than 20 cm – able to collect the juice just kill him.The tree must be a branching crown.And by the way, using a drill, remember that the harm birch applied anyway, but not particularly significant, so the following year on the same tree, you will find no trace of their actions.So
- hole drilled in the trunk of 5-6 cm. The distance from the ground should be 60 to 80 cm. On the same tree can be only one hole;
- Now insert the metal tube.Remember that it should be the same size as the hole itself, precisely because we have insisted on their same diameter.Protek should not be;
- to fasten the rubber metal tube and sent to the bottle.
way, choose to collect the juice can not only tube.Someone offers well-washed meadow grass, someone “wick” from rags.You choose.
start collecting the best juice in the morning and check the container to fill up twice: in the afternoon and evening.By the evening of juice markedly decreases.Another case that the intensity of the emitted juice is low.In this case, it is best to replace one tree to another, and in any case not to deepen the hole and do extra.
After collecting a particular tree is over, it is important to help the tree to “patch” the wound.To do this, cut a small piece of birch twigs and insert into the hole, drive into the hammer.Thus, the tree can be restored more quickly.
use and possession of birch sap
First juice to drink.As mentioned above, it storehouse of nutrients.But its shelf life is very low.A few days later, he simply turns sour and cloudy.But for the purpose of improving it must be applied 15-20 days.What to do?
The answer is simple: to freeze.Of course, there are ways of conservation, but they are not that inefficient during heat treatment of birch sap loses its quality.A freeze – saves.Use it for half an hour before a meal to 200 grams for children this rate is less than twice.In the early stages there is a strong diuretic effect, which reduces after 3-4 days.
way, if birch sap is frozen in the form of cubes, they very effectively wipe the face.The skin is not only cleaning, but also power and extra vitamins.But the fresh juice is useful to rinse hair – sort of a natural balm after shampooing.
also birch sap can be mixed with rubbing alcohol and apply topically.To do this, you need 100 grams of rubbing alcohol and 1 liter of birch sap.This mixture is, of course, not popesh, but for rubbing a very good – and birch sap retains all its beneficial properties.
way, birch sap is used in cooking.It is made brew is added to the dough interfere with other juices and drinks.However, we should not forget that the heat treatment does not make it more useful, because he will likely only gives a pleasant and unusual flavor food or beverages.