When extracting plant water, no matter where it comes from, it’s important to use the right methods so that the plant’s vitamins and nutrients are retained. Proper extraction includes distillation and evaporation.
Harvesting birch sap uses essentially the same equipment as maple sap. However, birch is a fairly fragile tree, so tapping and tubing must be done carefully.
The so-called “mineral sap,” found closer to the ground (within 50 cm), has more benefits than sap harvested from higher in the tree. Yield can be between one and several litres per day. On average, birch sap is half as sweet as maple sap.
In France, birch sap is marketed in two different ways: fresh or stabilized. Fresh sap is harvested by producers and usually consumed within three to four weeks at the most. Stabilized birch sap, on the other hand, keeps longer because the sap fermentation has been stabilized with lemon juice, plant buds and a small amount of plant alcohol.
AFTER HARVEST – THE FINAL PRODUCT
When the season begins, birch sap must be harvested daily, as it keeps for less than 36 hours. However, it can be pasteurized or frozen to preserve it longer.
Like its maple cousin, birch sap can be heated to transform it into syrup. On average, 130 litres of birch water are needed to create one litre of syrup. That’s at least three times more than maple syrup, which requires between 30 and 40 litres of sap to create one litre of syrup.
Birch water also needs to be boiled longer than maple water and over a lower heat to prevent it from burning. Cooking is often completed in a boiler to ensure the quality of the final product. Once it’s finished, the syrup is graded by colour and taste.
USES IN FOOD
Birch syrup is often used as a substitute for balsamic vinegar in salad dressings or marinades. It can also accompany green vegetables, fish or even seafood. In terms of nutritional value, it is more akin to honey than maple syrup. Although maple syrup is the most popular pancake topping, birch syrup is a great choice as well! It can also be used as a sweetener for things like coffee, some desserts or bread.
Finally, in Europe it is used to produce everything from toffees to beer, wine, brandy and vinegar.