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The Perils of Tapping

The highly sophisticated sap collection arrangement

The highly sophisticated sap collection arrangement

Last weekend we went off to do a trial run of some birch sap harvesting (commonly, and much more accurately, referred to as tapping). With the whole foraging party (of two) being complete amateurs, we’d carefully studied the available material and planned ahead. Heavily equipped (two clean coke bottles, one knife, some twigs and a lot of string) we strode out to confront our destiny. The aim, naturally, being to get some sap to make either wine or syrup (with this initial plan being for syrup, as wine will require a more concerted effort with a little more foresight). The method is one of two advised by various people, and simple in its execution. Rather than the more obvious, less subtle method of drilling a hole in the tree, and using a cork to plug it we went for the primitive route which involves stabbing the tree at an upwards angle, working the knife back and forth a bit until sap starts running, and wedging the cut open until done.

Of course having sap running out of the tree doesn’t do much for your collection, so a bottle was then fixed to the tree through a highly complicated and technologically intensive method, as shown on the right.

Four hours-worth of sap collection

Four hours-worth of sap collection

I wouldn’t exactly say the sap flowed at high speed, but we did manage to collect nearly a full bottle in only a few hours from just two trees. Of course, ideally this would have been done in slightly warmer weather, a little later on, when the sap is flowing more heavily – but for a trial this worked just fine. Birch sap doesn’t seem to have much of a distinctive taste (admittedly I was somewhat distracted by grevious wounds incurred while trying to tap said birch trees), but I think there’s enough there to make a wine that stands alone. I’ll also be planning, if we can gather enough, to bottle some and try for secondary fermentation (don’t tell the missus, she’s somewhat concerned about exploding bottles being more sensible than me).

Birch sap wine is another one of those very, very old wines which occasionally crop up again. I’m looking forward to making it, and have been collecting bottles so that we can get a cycle going to collect enough over a few days next week. With the current batch we’re looking to make some birch syrup, though whether we’ll manage in time before it expires is another question (it’s been rather a busy week).

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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Foraging, Sap

 

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