Meditations

Birch Syrup…a Sticky Business


sweet-tree-birch-syrup

On our recent drive up to Clinton, BC to visit our lambs at Cutter Ranch we stopped at a roadside store to buy some local produce, dairy, and meat for the weekend. While browsing the shelves, something called birch syrup caught my attention. The friendly woman behind the counter offered up a spoon to taste and I was immediately hooked. I had to have some.

I love maple syrup and cook with it often, but I’ve never tasted birch syrup and don’t think I’ve ever seen it at local stores. Maybe I just wasn’t looking? The jar I picked up was from Sweet Tree Ventures, a family-run 2000 acre ranch in Quesnel, BC—one of the few birch syrup producers in BC as most comes from Alaska and Yukon. I understand that harvesting and producing syrup must be a sticky, time-consuming business and likely difficult to do profitably, but aren’t birch trees quite common in BC? What’s the problem?

According the Sweet Tree’s website, birch syrup is not only sustainable, but is an all-natural and delicious product. Similar to its cousin maple syrup, birch syrup is produced by collecting tree sap and concentrating it by evaporation into a dark, thick syrup. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Whereas maple syrup takes 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, with birch syrup the ratio is 100 to 1. Birch syrup is predominantly fructose-based, so it tastes less sweet and is easier to digest than maple syrup, which is primarily sucrose. And birch syrup contains many more vitamins and minerals than maple.

When we used it to glaze local garlic scapes with dinner, we were really pleased with the rich, spicy, woody flavour— really rather incomparable to maple syrup. I can’t wait to try it in sauces or dressings, as a glaze on pork chops, or drizzled on top of ice cream.

Have you tasted or cooked with birch syrup? Got any recipes or tips to share?
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