Farmers' Kitchen—Singular Syrup
Written onFebruary 22 , 2017
A few years ago, our friend Bucky came home from a visit to his daughter in Alaska with a bottle of Alaskan birch syrup. For a few months we talked about how we could combine our large stand of birch trees with his 30-plus years making maple syrup. We began to consider producing birch syrup in Vermont.
In 2014 we did an experiment, tapping 400 trees. We had no idea how the sap would run, or how much sap to expect. There aren’t many birch syrup producers on the East Coast and no standard for making birch syrup. Plus, the ratio of birch sap to syrup is three times greater than that of maple (120 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup). The first time we boiled, we watched as the clear, sweet sap gradually turned darker shades of red, but we ran out of sap before we could draw off (after an eight-hour boil!). The next night we drew off our first batch of syrup. We made about 10 gallons that year and considered the season to have been a success, as we quickly sold all of the syrup.
We now tap around 1,100 trees, and sell our syrup at farmers’ markets, co-ops, and general stores around Vermont, as well as online. Our syrup has also been featured on menus in Vermont and Boston.
You may have heard that birch syrup is bitter or sour, or tastes like medicine, but we haven’t found that to be true. Birch syrup has a more complex flavor than maple syrup and tastes a bit like molasses, with undertones of raspberry and caramel. We sample our syrup at farmers’ markets around Vermont and most people are pleasantly surprised by the flavor, even those who are hesitant to taste it. We often hear, “It tastes a little like molasses, and something else…” And that something else can be different for each person.
We find birch syrup to be more of a cooking syrup than a pancake syrup (although some do like it on their pancakes), and a little goes a long way. We drizzle it on roasted vegetables, particularly Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and carrots, and we have used it as a glaze on salmon and meats. Our daughter adds it to seltzer water to make a drink that tastes like cream soda. It’s also great drizzled over cheese on a cheese plate or over ice cream.
We are always experimenting, and we love to hear ways that our customers are using our birch syrup. Let us know!
Vermont Birch Syrup Company is located in Glover and owned by Bucky Shelton, Darrell Bussino, and Amy Wright. Syrup is sold at the Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier; Currier’s General Store in Glover; Newport Natural Market & Café and Pick and Shovel, both in Newport; Littleton Food Co-Op in New Hampshire; and at farmers’ markets around Vermont. Find us online at vermontbirchsyrupcompany.com and on Facebook, where we post our summer market schedule.