Set the Net

Recipes and snapshots of life in Bristol Bay, AK

When the weather hits a consistent average of above 50ºF during the day and the snow is mostly or completely melted away, the birch sap begins to flow back up from the roots to the above branches preparing to bud. That sap, when tapped into, can be drank straight from the tree as a cool clear tonic, made into syrup, brewed into tea, or even used to produce beer or wine. The entire process is also a wonderful opportunity to share with children as a structured lesson plan or just as a way to get the whole family outdoors. It is also wholly satisfying to pour a swirl of handmade syrup on a stack of flapjacks that has all been created from scratch.

We have hit the window in Alaska for tree tapping and if you have never embarked on this project before this is your year! Spiles can be found on Amazon or locally in Anchorage at Alaska Mill & Feed and on the Kenai Peninsula at Kenai Feed & Supply. I recommend getting the spiles that come with the bucket hooks for ease and if you choose to use plastic buckets or bags look for BPA free. University of Alaska’s Cooperative Extension has an excellent PDF on tapping and uses for birch syrup that the new tapper can use as a how-to in getting started.

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