The mosquitoes started buzzing around for the first time today, so we knew it was time to start tapping birch trees. Birch sap is a delightful, slightly sweet drink loaded with vitamins and mineral. By this time if year, it's been several months since we've had any fresh fruits or vegetables, and birch sap is an energizing "Spring Tonic". This might not be a national holiday, but around our house Birch Tapping Day is cause for celebration! This day goes on the calendar as the day we started replacing all of our drinking water with birch sap. I'm sure our spring water is great, but there's nothing like ice cold birch sap straight from the tree. We'll treasure the next two weeks while the sap is running.
If you're interested in learning to tap trees and make your own syrup, take a look at this little book Backyard Sugarin': A Complete How-To Guide, Third Edition
. It's great for helping you learn the basics to get started.
Zeke and Jed found a birch stump that started running several days ago, but it was on a sunny, south-facing slope. Since the place we go to tap is shadier, the trees there are usually a few days behind. The boys were so excited about this beverage God provides each year that they spend lots of time at the stump slurping up the sap as quickly as it oozes out. Whenever they get thirsty, they wander over for a drink of the sweet sap. Here are two pictures of them sucking sap from the stump just before bed the other night.
Jed and Zeke helped gather up all the equipment today and were ready to tap some trees!
Here's Chuck drilling a small hole in the first tree.
Chuck made the spouts out of pieces of spruce. He cut pieces about 3" long, shaved them to size and drilled holes through the middle. In this picture you can see a drop of sap just starting to come out. Some people just carve a channel the length of the spout to direct the sap, which is what we have done in the past. But we found that the exposed channel tends to attract more bugs.
Here's one of the coffee cans hanging beneath a spout.
We put a zip top plastic bag in the coffee cans and try to seal it up as best we can over the spout to keep out bugs.
Just a few hours after we tapped the trees, two of the four had already put out nearly two quarts each. I expect they'll be overflowing by morning when we check them again. Might have to find larger containers.
I think next year I'm going to try my hand at making a little birch syrup. I wanted to do it this spring, but too many irons in the fire already. It takes something like 80 to 100 gallons of birch sap to make just 1 gallon of syrup. I've read that a gallon of maple syrup only requires about 40 gallons of sap, so you can see this would be a huge time commitment.
With four trees tapped so far, we'll have plenty of sap to drink, and enough to share with the dog and cat. I'll use the extra as the liquid when I make soap. I wish I knew of a way to preserve the sap for year-round drinking. I've read that a company in Russia bottles birch sap and sells it all over the world. The extension service told me that it would not be safe to do only a boiling water bath. I've thought about pressure canning the sap, but I wonder if it would kill most of the nutrients. If anybody reading this has an idea about that, please let me know.