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Birch Syrup

Syrup from the white birch (Betula papyrifera)—also known as the paper or canoe birch—is made from mature trees that reach tappable size after 20 to 25 years. The trees are generally tapped in late February or early March for a month to five weeks. The sap run begins when nighttime temperatures dip below freezing and daytime temperatures are above 2 C.

Each tree produces approximately 13 litres of sap per tap, which is then processed through evaporation into approximately 0.3–0.5 litres of syrup. Because maples grow larger and produce sap that has higher sugar content, the yield differs considerably from maple syrup. Birch syrup requires 100 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, while maple syrup has a 40-to-1 ratio. And because the fructose content of birch sap is lower than that of maple, the boiling and evaporation time can take up to two and a half times longer.

The flavour is also slightly different. Birch syrup has a slightly bittersweet flavour and is lighter in colour than maple. At four times the price of maple syrup, the cost of birch syrup befits a product from a fledgling industry that requires more work to produce. As a result, it has become something of a culinary rarity and novelty.

The Alberta Sugarmakers’ Association was created by Canada’s first commercial syrup producer Warren Bard in 1999 in the hopes of eventually developing birch syrup grading and processing standards, much like those of maple syrup producers in eastern Canada and the United States. The association provides tree tapping kits, supplies, syrup making equipment … and of course, offers the final product for sale. To contact the association, e-mail sugarmakers@canada.com.

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