Home Projects Abound: Tapping Trees and Cleaning Poop – Part I

With the jump in daylight hours (for about 2 weeks now we have lost all darkness and have transitioned to the realm of neverending daylight), the melting of snow, break-up of river and lake ice, and wonderful 70-80F degree temperatures it is finally time for outdoor home projects again!!

Alaska’s version of maple trees (aka maple syrup) are birch trees (aka birch syrup). End of April/beginning of May is when birch sap flows for about 10 days.  A friend of mine is an avid birch tapper; she gave us instructions, a demo, birch syrup toffee and a tap and off we went in search of the perfect birch tree to tap. As it turns out we live in a spruce forest, and not very confident of how spruce sap would taste, we wandered over to a friend’s house and sure enough found a birch tree to tap there.

Now, tapping a tree is not easy, it’s a bit of a science.  In our first attempt we had the tap, a drill, hammer and bucket.  All well and good. Except when I went to check it the next day (birch sap only stays good for 24 hours, so either you have to drink it, boil it or freeze it within that timeframe) it had rained over night and the tipped-over-bucket contents I excitedly brought home that day tasted a lot like rainwater and forest debris.  Wiser now, the next day we brought foil to cover the bucket and stabilized it with rocks and wood to keep from tipping over.

The other rather important part of tapping a tree is to have a plan in place for what to do with the gallons of sap that will come spewing out of the tree. We didn’t have such a plan. At the end of the 10 day period what we did have was a severe lack of tupperware and a freezer bursting at the seams with frozen birch sap.  Luckily, we only tapped one tree this season…can’t imagine what would have happened if we had tapped 5 like originally planned, our house would have become a birch sap sanctuary.

When the time came to actually put human food in our tupperware and freezer again, we stuffed all the frozen birch sap into our slow cooker and cooked it for about 48 hours. Since the sugar content in birch sap is rather low, it is easy to just burn the whole thing off and not end up with syrup or just with burned residue, so it has to be watched pretty closely.  And the end of this fun home project we ended up as proud owners of a quarter cup of our very own birch syrup (with added forest debris flavorings, because while we did think of straining it there didn’t appear to be a right moment for it, can’t strain it in frozen format and then it already started becoming gooey-syrupy). Ta-da!!

(Part II to follow…)

Our first attempt at birch syrup (+ forest debris flavoring)

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~ by yhossain on May 26, 2011.

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