A Pair of Saps

So. We went out this weekend to collect some Birch sap.

This was a first for the two of us, so we didn’t really know how much we could expect to collect. We used an auger to drill holes about 3 feet or so up each tree.

Having never done this before we weren’t sure how fast the sap would drip. We soon found that some flowed better than others and the best idea was that if the sap didn’t flow almost immediately to bung up the hole and find another tree (fortunately we were in woods with LOTS of Birch).

We had some hose with us to put into the hole.  The hose was slightly too small and didn’t provide a tight fit. We tried to pack it out with some twine but it proved wholly inadequate. So Paul decided to carve some wooden spigots and use those instead. They were infinitely better.

We put the efficiency of the wooden taps down to two main reasons – firstly, they were a tighter fit; and secondly, since the wooden ones were open then sap falling down the sides (within the hole) would also collect. Whatever the reason, the wooden taps worked much better.

We had four 2 litre bottles which we placed beneath each tree with a funnel and coffee filter paper in each.

We decided to leave them overnight and come back the next morning to see how much we’d collected…

…And so next day came. The collection in each bottle varied. But between the four bottles we had we had collected just under 2 litres, therefore averaging about 1/2 litre per tree. We poured them all together.

The holes were filled with wood, hammered in tightly, then sawn off flush with the trunk.

This ensures the tree heals quickly and safely without any infection.

So, the sap.

It’s fair to say we’d expected a bit more. But this had been our first time, so neither of us knew exactly what to expect. We both had a taste of the sap to see what it was like. Surprisingly it had very little taste. It tasted like water, albeit very clean and fresh water. There was a nutty aftertaste. Both of us had been expecting something sweeter.

Rather than split the sap we had between us we decided that one of us would take it home and make syrup out of it. Paul took it. He spent the rest of the afternoon boiling it down and then had what syrup there was on a pancake. He said it tasted a bit like maple syrup, but slightly weaker. (I should add to Steve’s comments here that the 2 litres boiled down to around 5ml of ‘syrup’. I believe the typical reduction is about 80 to 1 so you’re gonna need a lot of sap to start with in order to fill a jar – Paul)

This had been the first time for both of us and, as well as getting some Birch syrup out of it, we had learnt a great deal from the experiment. There’s only a short window in the year to collect Birch sap – generally mid-March. So if you haven’t started already then don’t delay and get collecting now!

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