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?
I 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.