A Winemaking Idea

For centuries – and particularly in Wales – people have made silver birch wine from the sap of the silver birch tree. We have loads of them around here, and this is apparently the perfect time of year to collect their sap. If enough people feel like helping me harvest sap and making wine, we’ll go for it. I’ll need a handful of volunteers who are willing to go out for a few hours on some weekend – hey; we’ll take a picnic and make an event of it – and tap into birch trees.

This isn’t an entirely hairbrained idea – a few people even make birch wine commercially.

The recipe I’ve seen, which I’ve copied below, is from an article on making things from birch trees in general, and the page also includes tips on tapping into trees without killing them and on how to avoid poisoning yourself with nasty varieties of bracket fungus. It goes as follows:

Birch Sap Wine

  • 8 pints sap
  • 1/2 lb chopped raisins
  • 2lb sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • general purpose yeast

Collect the sap from a number of trees so as not to overtap an individual tree, which could kill it. The sap should be collected in early March whilst it is still rising. Select larger trees, bore a hole about 1″-2″ deep, around 4ft off the ground, place a tube or something similar in the hole and allow the sap to run down. Then put a suitable container underneath and allow to fill. The hole will heal naturally, but it wouldn’t hurt to wedge a piece of birch bark over the hole to aid it. Boil the sap as soon as collected, add the sugar and simmer for 10 minutes. Place the raisins in a suitable bucket, pour in the boiling liquid and add the yeast and lemon juice when it has cooled to blood temperature. Cover the bucket and leave to ferment for three days before straining off into a demi-john and sealing with an air lock. Let stand until fermentation finishes, then rack off into a clean jar and let the sediment settle. Bottle the wine and store in a cool place for at least a month.

So, who’s with me?

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