Time to Tap that Sap!

By , April 5, 2013

Wednesday morning, when I booted up and plodded outside to sweep 3 inches of “isolated snow flurries, no accumulation” off the solar panels, the dense fog and vast rafts of snow floating in Lynn Canal did not suggest the possibility of tapping birch trees. However, later that morning, as the snow petered out and the sun began to burn away the overcast, I realized that there could scarcely be a better day for it.

An inauspicious beginning to the day: snow on the water (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

An inauspicious beginning to the day: snow on the water (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

After my expriements with tapping our birch trees last year, and the disappointing results of my birch wine efforts (although it did make a dandy cooking wine) I had not really planned to tap any trees this year.

However, after realizing we owned some tree taps after we’d finished tapping for that year, the possibility remained in the back of my mind. Now, with our weather dipping just below freezing in the low, and up to the mid 40s in the high, the conditions are about as good as they’re likely to get.

I committed to the idea as I bottled a batch of homemade apple wine. I had the sanitizing bath going anyway, why not throw in a few taps, the milk jugs Michelle had been using to make cooler ice, and even a drill bit while I’m at it?

Unfortunately, I decided not to rely on what I thought I remembered about tapping from last year, regarding optimum time of day and temperatures. I wasted a good half hour sifting through search results on tapping. No one told me anything I hadn’t already known, but I didnt’ make it out to the tree in the door yard till noon.

A quick glance at the suckers at the base of our birch tree showed a slight sap sweat, indicating I might have a bit of luck. I intended to drill two holes, set the taps, and see what happened.

As I pulled the drill bit out of the first hole, sap started drippig out. I fumbled setting up the spall, getting the hook on right, and attaching the milk jug I’d pierced to take the sap flow and the hook that would hold it in place. Sap dribbled all over, but soon I had it directed into the jug.

I set up the other rig on the opposite side of the tree. Each jug received fat drops of sap at just under one per second. Not bad for the “wrong” time of day to tap.

A tap and jug for each side of the door yard birch (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

A tap and jug for each side of the door yard birch (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

The temperatures didn’t stay in the optimum zone. The next day I repeatedly broke icicles of sap off the outside of the jugs, tossing them inside to melt. I’ll probably have about a gallon by the time you read this.

I have a new wine recipe that seems like it’ll be better than the last one. Also, the stronger flow means faster collection, thus fresher sap to work with. I should have enough to try a batch of wine. I might try making fruite juice with the leftovers. It’s supposed to be a very healthy drink, and since it’s pretty much the flavor and consistency of water in its fresh state, using it to reconstitute some juice concentrate might make a good breakfast drink.

2 Responses to “Time to Tap that Sap!”

  1. Linn Hartman says:

    Never heard of tapping birch trees – As a kid we used to tap maple trees in Indiana- Sounds like your weather man went to the same school as ours – they get paid if they hit it or not-hope it goes well

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Linn, I can’t blame the weatherman for what’s going on here (taps frozen solid all day today) since I didn’t listen to the weather report before I started!

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