Birch tree tapping

I tapped a couple of Birch trees last year around the same time as now and got about 8 litres of sap in around 3 days. I tried a few days ago with a couple of friends. I ( and helpful husband) demo’d how we did it. There are lots of different techniques out there, have a look and see if those suit you better, and please, let me know how you get on. Always remember to check if it’s okay to tap the trees from the landowner.Image

Helpful husband earning muchos brownie points.

Anyway, I’ve been up checking to see how the collecting bottles are doing, but so far the most productive tree has yielded a 1/6th to 1/5th of a bottle and the rest just a dribble. Is it too early as the weather is reminiscent of the tundra here at present, or is it more prosaic and the sap is freezing in our irrigation taps?

I plan to keep trying over a period of time as I would like to try a different method of concentrating the sap this year. Last year I boiled (and boiled and boiled) til it was reduced to a 1/10th of its original amount. It gave a wonderfully mapley syrup but it was a lot of time and gas used. This time I’d like to try freezing the sap; the syrup or sugary water stays liquid while the water freezes. I believe this is repeated a few times to drive off the water so concentrating the sugars to get an unheated syrup. The syrup will be lacking in flavour and still need heating to change the colour and taste but it would be interesting to taste and use the raw syrup, or use it as a base for other syrups.

For those that are interested here is how we do it:

We (the royal ‘we’ here, for ‘we’, probably should read HH, the helpful husband) use 8mm irrigation taps and connectors and plastic tubing. We get ours from B & Q hardware stores, but you can probably find it elsewhere.Image

Most of the methods I read up on use open topped containers for the sap to run into, but using the sap for syrups for confections, syrups or chocolates, I wanted as little contamination in the liquid as possible; no beasties, leaves or lichen, or bird crap for that matter wanted, thank you. So we use empty water bottles. The same diameter hole is put in the cap to put the tubing into. An extra hole is drilled into the cap to prevent air pressure building up in the bottle. We found that this happened last year in the sun (no chance of that so far this year!). A word to the wise – do this before going out and so wasting time with gloves off in Arctic worthy blasts of wind.Image

The irrigation connector fitted at the top and the unit put into the drilled whole in the bark of the tree – about 2-3 feet up the tree works well. The whole only needs to be in a little – we’ve found even a centimetre or 2 is sufficient – drill slowly until you see the sap coming out. Fit the connector tightly into the hole to prevent sap loss for both you and the tree.

It’s really important to remember that the sap only keeps for a maximum of 3-4 days in the fridge. And not to damage the trees; choose trees about 9″ -1 foot in diameter and close the whole up when you’ve finished. We use dowels of a slightly larger diameter so they can be shaped to fit. Cut the dowel or stick, some people favour using a bit of birch stick if it’s nearby, make sure it is flush with the tree bark and rub a bit of wax on the end to stop the sap coming out of the fresh wood. Job done, now you only have to find a use for it…