The sap of birch trees is probably most familiar in the carbonated drink called birch beer but can also be used to make an alcoholic beer, a wine, and a syrup. Birch sap is said to tast like very fresh water and be savory rather than sweet due to the fact that it contains only 1.5-2% sugar. The sap of various species of birch can be used and the flavors will vary depending on the species of birch, climate, location, and season. My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, included a recipe for birch wine in her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, and begins with the collecting of the sap. Grandmother’s recipe is rather vague but more exact ones are available on line.In the words of my grandmother:
The liquor of the birch-tree is to be obtained in the month of March, when the sap begins to ascend. One foot from the ground bore a whole in each tree, large enough to admit a faucet, and set a vessel under; the liquor will run for two or three days without hurting the tree. Having obtained a sufficient quantity, stop the holes with pegs. To each gallon of the liquor add one quart of honey, or two and one-half pounds of sugar. Boil together one hour, stirring it well. A few cloves may be added for flavor, or the rind of a lemon or two; and by all means one ounce of hops to four and one-half gallons of wine.
Work it with yeast, tun, and refine with isinglass. Two months after making, it may be drawn off and bottled, and in two months more will be fit for use, but will improve by keeping.
Photo Credit: godshillsileofwright.co.uk
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