Birch syrup is made from the sap of birch trees. It’s a dark, sweet syrup that is about 70% sugar. It’s slightly bittersweet, giving it a more complex, less cloyingly sweet taste than maple syrup. It’s used in a variety of culinary applications.
Birches are a common hardwood species in northern hardwood and boreal forests. They are a good source of sap flow, and can be tapped just as maple trees are.
To make birch syrup, tap a tree by drilling a hole at an upward angle into the trunk and collecting the sap inside. Birch trees will typically give you about a gallon of sap per day, so it’s not difficult to get enough to make some syrup.
The type of birch you use to make syrup will depend on your region and climate. White birch (Betula papyrifera) and silver birch (Betula lenta) are more commonly tapped in regions with cold winters and high elevations, whereas black birch (Betula pendula) is used in cooler regions.
When making birch syrup, be sure to boil it down at lower temperatures than maple syrup to avoid the fructose in the birch sap scorching and producing a burnt taste. Also, filter the birch sap through a fine-mesh coffee filter before adding it to your evaporation pan.
While birch syrup may not be the flavor cousin of maple syrup, it can be a great addition to a sugarmaker’s line up of products, opening up new markets and creating new opportunities for them.
Like maple syrup, birch syrup is boiled down using reverse osmosis machines and evaporators. However, unlike maple sap, birch syrup has a higher temperature sensitivity than sucrose, which makes it more difficult to boil down without causing the sap to burn.
Depending on your climate and the types of birch trees you’re tapping, it may take about a week to make a gallon of birch syrup. Once the sap has been collected, it’s boiled down and concentrated until it reaches the desired consistency.
Once the birch syrup is ready, it can be stored in glass bottles and used for all sorts of cooking and baking. It can be drizzled over pancakes, ice cream and glazed on chicken and fish. It also works well in dipping sauces and vinaigrettes.
In fact, birch syrup is so versatile that you can find it on menus in restaurants from New York to Alaska. It’s not an ideal substitute for honey or maple syrup in pancakes but it’s a great complement to both.
Birch syrup is available in a variety of colors and tastes. The lighter birch syrup is golden in color and is reminiscent of honey, while the darker birch syrups have more intense caramel flavors and woodlandy notes.
It’s also a great match for blue cheese, rhubarb tarts and grilled portobello mushrooms. It’s a wonderful complement to smoked salmon and broiled white fish, as well as being a delicious glaze for roasted vegetables.
As with maple syrup, birch syrup should be used sparingly. The syrup should be poured over the top of dishes instead of spooned on top.