The Entzminger family share their customers' commitment to the environment. They know that by harvesting birch sap in a sustainable manner, they will ensure the continued health of their birch woodlots for future generations.

Kelly and Skyla harvesting birch sap

Tapping, Sapping and Sugaring
in your own back yard.

Each spring the trees are tapped, sap is collected, and the crystal clear liquid is boiled down to make Sweet Tree's nutritious natural Birch Syrup. 

Syrup season usually begins from April 10th to the beginning of May depending on the spring. To make a decent batch of Birch Syrup you will need to boil down approximately  600 litres of sap. Depending on your trees, you will need tap approximately 8 to 10 trees using a standard  7/16 spile.  Each tree will produce approximately 10 to 15 litres of sap per day.

 

Supplies Needed

  • 7/16 spiles and food grade hose from 12” to 24” long
  • Food grade plastic buckets (10- to 20 litres) with lids
  • Drill and titanium bit or you can use a hand drill
  • Wooden dowels cut about 2” long
  • A mallet or a hammer to put in spiles and dowels
  • 2-3 Heavy stainless steel pans
  • Wooden spoons
  • Filters such as cheese cloth, coffee filters or milk filters
  • Double boiler
  • Glass jars for syrup
  • An abundance of patience

Getting Started

  1. Sterilize the drill bit with alcohol then drill a 7/16” hole in a Birch tree about 2 to 3 feet off the ground depending on whether you are putting the bucket on the ground or hanging it on the spile.  The drill should be angled slightly down. Do not drill more than 1 1/2” into the tree.  You do not want to drill into the heartwood.
  2. Insert a clean spile and attach the hose to the end of the spile then watch the sap drip.  The sap is very good to drink directly from the tree.  
  3. Drill a hole in the lid of the bucket near the edge so you can insert the hose into the hole.
  4. Place the bucket handle onto the spile and place a lid on the bucket with the hose in the hole.  This will help keep debris out of the sap.

The Birch trees in each area may start flowing at different times of the spring.  Producers in the Quesnel area usually start tapping from April 10th to the beginning of May but each season has been different.  The leaf buds should not be swelling or budding out.  The tree should have a large crown, look healthy and be at least 6” in diameter.  If you tap the same tree more than once move the hole you tap over from the previous year and either up or down from the area.  It would be acceptable to give the tree a break every other year and instead tap a different tree.

Kelly and Skyla checking a sap bucket and spile.

There are many people who try to follow Maple Syrup rules when cooking Birch sap, but you have to throw most of the rules out the window when it comes to Birch Syrup.  Birch syrup should not be heated much above 200 degrees where Maple syrup can be heated as high as 300 degrees.  Birch syrup will scorch and burn very easily because of the fructose sugar Birch sap contains.  This results in bitter caramel flavoured syrup that is not pleasing to the taste buds.  It is not easy to make good tasting Birch syrup that is not burnt, and has reached a high enough sugar content that it will not spoil. 

Sweet Tree evaporator at work.

You can choose to cook your syrup on your stove, on an open fire with a large grate, or on a wood cook stove.  The sap should not be simmered for very long, and new sap should not be added to the old concentrate.  Each day the sap that you collect has to be cooked down to concentrate and the buckets must be cleaned and rinsed.  This is critical to producing a good tasting product, and to eliminating contamination from unwanted bacteria. 

Filtering and Cooking the Sap

  1. Each day bring in your sap.  Filter the sap using a cheese cloth for the larger debris then a coffee or milk filter for the smaller particles. 
  2. Pour into 2 to 3 heavy stainless steel pans or whatever you want to use.  Cook on high heat, stir as much as your arm will allow and skim off the foam.  The color of amber liquid will start to appear in your pan and it will be approximately 1/16” deep. 
  3. REMOVE FROM HEAT!  If you see vigorous boiling the heat is likely too high.  The steam will also evaporate off some moisture.
  4. Transfer all this liquid gold to a double boiler no deeper than approximately 3/8” deep. 
  5. Keep the heat at a lower temperature so it will not burn and watch it carefully as it will turn quickly.  Stir the syrup until you see it thicken but not as much as Maple syrup.  Birch syrup will thicken as it cools but will not be as thick as Maple syrup. 
  6. There may be a mineral scale build up in the pan from cooking which will have to be removed.  When there is  1/4 to 1/3 cup left in the pan, pour into your glass jar. 
  7. You can filter the syrup if you want to. 
  8. Clean all pans and utensils used and start all over the next day!  Congratulations! This is your finished product, Birch Syrup.
  9. It is okay to add to the jar each day if you want to.  If you want to reheat the syrup for smaller jars heat to 180 degrees then jar.  If you reheat the syrup there will be some sediment but that will not harm the syrup.   
  10. If you choose to cook outside you can use the same principles but you can use a BBQ or a propane cooker for the double boiling stage.  This way is much harder to regulate. 
  11. When the sap turns cloudy, a pink colour appears or has a yeasty smell  it is time to quit tapping.  At the end of the season make sure you insert a dowel into the hole of the Birch tree to allow it to heal over.

Happy sugaring off and best of luck!  Do not be afraid to try new things.