It’s that time of year again, the sap is rising and I can’t help feeling like it’s all racing ahead this year. Although this is the normal time of year for tapping birch, I think I could have probably got good results 2 or 3 weeks ago.
There’s only a very limited stand of 8 birch trees in the main wood at Coed Hills, and these are the only trees big enough for the job, I’ve heard it said that nothing less than a foot across should be tapped and so I’ve stuck to that. The first wine I ever made was from Birch sap nearly 10 years ago now, and I still enjoy the process with as much glee and wonder.
I use a very simple approach for collecting sap and try to make as smaller hole as possible to reduce the risk of damaging the tree. I use a 7.5mm drill bit with 5mm (internal diameter) clear rubber tubing that you can get from most DIY shops. Provided you drill the hole into a firm non crumbly area of bark you will get a snug fit with the tube. As always be considerate of the process your undertaking, treat the tree with respect.
I drill the holes at a shallow angle up into the cambium layer, to about 4cm. Once your in the sap will start to drip out within a few seconds and you then need to push the tubing in firmly as deep as it will go. Provided your angle is good and there’s no splits in the bark you will see the sap running down your tubing.
Cut the tubing to a length that means it will stay in your collecting bottle and place something around the neck that will stop bugs and leaf litter falling in. I found cutting single egg holders off of egg boxes works pretty well for this.
All you need to then is come back and check it in 24 hours (if your using a gallon jar like me), see how full it is and if needs be come back 24 hours later.
Once you’ve collected your sap be sure to fill in the hole with a cut section of cork, making sure it’s a snug fit. The tree can then heal behind this without loosing to much more sap.
Just to drink it straight is an amazing experience, it feels like concentrated spring! I’ll post my recipe for Birch sap wine when I’ve started to make it. If you want to do this you’ll need to pasteurise the liquid when you get it back to your kitchen to make sure it doesn’t go off.