Tapping Into Nature   7 comments

This week’s blog hop is “What Would You Love To Learn How To Do? Share pictures and what you’d like to learn, then go out and try that thing. Share an update of your experience with your followers.”
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One of the things I love about the modern age is that learning things is so much easier than it used to be. I tried to explain this to my son a while back … we actually had to go to the library to access reference material back when I was in school. He thinks we were so deprived back in the day.
I more or less agree with him. I’m constantly learning new stuff these days because it’s so accessible via the Internet.

So what would I like to learn to do?

Image result for image of tapping birch trees in alaskaI can think of a lot of things I want to learn to do, but this spring, I actually have something I’m planning to learn — How to tap birch trees for syrup.

Did you know you could make a great tasting syrup from birch tree sap? I grew up here and didn’t know about this until about 10 years ago when a friend gave us a pint. Birch syrup is a truly unique Alaska flavor and quite rare. At this time the only commercial production of birch syrup I can find in the world is in the Matanuska Valley, but here in Fairbanks, there’s a newly-formed cooperative that is making use of a commercial kitchen at the University of Alaska to evaporate members sap into syrup.

The sap, containing only 1-1.5 percent sugar, looks and tastes like sweet water right out of the tree. Concentrating the sugar to 67 percent by evaporation gives the syrup its color and distinctive flavor. It’s sort of a spicy sweet flavor. The Alaska paper birch starts in early April in Matanuska, but here in Fairbanks we’re just figuring out the best time. Most of us think it will be May 1 or thereabouts. The season lasts 2-3 weeks, until the trees bud. Each tree will produce approximately 3/4 to 1 gallon of sap per day. We have 20 trees in our yard, so we anticipate 200-300 gallons of sap.  It takes an average of 100 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of birch syrup. (Maple syrup, by comparison, averages 40:1). So we might get three gallons of syrup, but we’re donating three quarters of it back to the cooperative an exchange for the evaporating, so we’ll get a 2-3 quarts.

Brad has attended the classes discussing how to tap the birch and set the spouts. I’ll be his assistant. We’re just using the trees in our yard this year.

 

 

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Posted April 17, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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7 responses to “Tapping Into Nature

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  1. Now that should be interesting. Please follow up and let us know how it goes.

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  2. You’ll have to let us know how it compares in flavor to maple.

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    • I’ve tasted it. It’s not as sweet as maple and has a spicy undertone. Using wine-snob lingo, there’s a birchy, grassy note just behind the sweet. We’re told that some trees are sweeter than others and the first day of the run is sweetest still. It will be interesting to note the differences. Unfortunately, Brad has to do a lot of it alone because my job hours are more fixed than his.

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  3. Been meaning to try tapping birch trees. I hear that it’s harder to boil because of the higher risk of having it burn. Maple syrup is much less likely to burn so temperature control is more important while making birch syrup.

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    • We’re not evaporating it ourselves. We’re working with a local cooperative that has a commercial kitchen. They’re affiliated with the university which is treating it like a science experiment. My husband, whose job hours are more flexible than mine, will be learning how to do it with the eventual goal of doing it ourselves … just not this year.

      My mom grew up in North Dakota on a farm when ND farmers were still growing corn (her hometown is surrounded by sunflower farms now). So, in those days, they used to make corn syrup. You can’t really grow corn in Alaska, so this is all very fascinating to me.

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      • The other product if you will of maple sap is drinking the sap unpasteurized. It is rich in about 11 minerals and vitamins. I filter it fresh out of the tree and immediately refrigerate it or freeze it for later use. I wonder what the health benefits are of birch sap? Will have to try that as well. Unfortunately the last of my maple sap was collected a week ago. I don’t think there is any birch sap available any more this year. Will have to put it on the to do list.

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      • Some of the people in the birch cooperative have been doing this for several years and they mix the birch sap in with hot beverages, sort of like honey. My husband plans to try that. He really got into using the products on our cabin site land a few years ago. We have a football field worth of blueberries, some salmonberries and rosehips, horsehoof fungus (which grows on dead birch trees and has medicinal properties), chega (which grows on living birch trees), and Labrador tea. The birch syrup is just his next step.

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