On our ‘One day foraging‘ course this Saturday the group learnt the technique for tapping a Birch tree. The end of the birch sap season is progressing at walking pace up the country as we speak. All of you in the north have time to collect sap, those of you south of us may be too late, it depends how cold it has been. Check the size of the leaf buds on the tree – they should be still small and tight (officially the size of a squirrels toe! ) Instructions for tapping trees are below along with our Birch wine recipe. Thank you all for coming on the course, we enjoyed your company, the course photos are here too. Choose your tree carefully, Silver Birch, Downy Birch or Sycamore are all good, choose a large one at least 25cm diameter. You will need a large clean bottle or demijohn, some 10mm plastic tubing and a 10mm drill bit and drill. Find a tree that has smooth bark about 1m up from the base and a good place to put your sap container. The sap rises in the layer just behind the bark so a hole 2cm deep in to the tree is perfect. Put one end of the tubing into the tree and the other in the bottle filling the gap with a clean rag to stop any bits falling in. Sometimes you can get a gallon of sap overnight, but sap doesn’t keep well so we advise you to freeze it if you do not have enough after 2 days. Don’t take more than one gallon per tree and when you have your sap, fill the hole with a piece of wood that has been shaped to fit. Sap can be drunk as a nutritious spring tonic, made in to a lovely country wine or boiled down to make a syrup. Of course once you have a wine or a syrup this can be an interesting ingredient for other dishes. Birch sap wine Birch sap wine was introduced to Britain from the Baltic and is still commercially made on a small scale in Scotland. Writing in 1718 Ned Ward, author of ‘The London Spy’ described it as “Wine drawn out of a birch tree… drinks almost like mead, and makes a mans mouth smell of honey.” Ingredients
- 1 Gallon of Birch sap
- 2 1/2 lbs Sugar
- Zest of 2 Lemons
- 1/2 lb Raisins
- 1 tsp Brewers yeast.
- You can also add 1tsp of yeast nutrient which does help the whole thing along but is not vital.
Method Boil the sap with the lemon zest for 20 minutes. Poor into a clean bucket containing the sugar and raisins and stir until all sugar is dissolved. When the liquor has cooled to 70 degrees F (21 degrees C) add the yeast and yeast nutrient. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place (65-70 degrees F) for 4-5 days stirring daily. Strain into a demijohn fit an airlock and leave in a warm place until fermentation has finished (approx 10 days). Bottle the wine using siphon tubing taking care not to suck up the sediment in the bottom of the demijohn. Cork the bottles and keep for 3 months before drinking.