Time to Celebrate: Birch Syrup Season is Done

Yukon Brewing received its delivery of birch sap from Yukon Birch Syrup on May 18, and that was a wrap for this year’s birch syrup season. The sap destined for beer is always harvested last, when the green buds are just beginning to appear on the 1,500 or so birch trees on a forested slope above the McQuesten River. Here, Berwyn Larsen and Sylvia Frisch and their two daughters homestead off-grid; and here, every spring, they and a posse of volunteers collect and process the 120,000 litres of sap that boils down, over several weeks, to 750 litres of syrup: early-, mid- and late-season varieties. Those syrups are showing up now on retail shelves, and the beer won’t be far behind; indeed, we can expect to see it around June 23, according to Yukon Brewing production coordinator Tyson Baxter.

For the birch syrup producers, the end-of-season shift from sap for syrup, to sap for beer, is both thrilling and tricky. “Oh yeah, beer concentrate is relaxing and fun and easy, relative to syrup, as we only bring [the sugar content] to 27 per cent, and the vibe is all beer,” said Frisch. But they need to get the timing just right. “We have to move fast and make the call to switch to beer when we are still getting high enough volume to fill our barrels fast—if we don’t, the yeasts will eat all the sugars. We try to stabilize it by keeping it as clean and cold as we can and getting it to Whitehorse as quick as we can.” It’s not unusual for Frisch or Larsen to be making a mad dash down the North Klondike Highway in the middle of the night while the other one races to Dawson to get the syrup into bottles.

Once the sap is delivered, the beer fermenting, the syrups bottled and in stores, Ahhh. The producers’ work is done. Then it’s up to the cooks. I love this season, when two-litre jugs of syrup are available again and I can stock up. Then all the kitchen-year long, I’ve got birch syrup at my elbow, ready to jazz up a stew, bring a dash of umami to a tomato sauce, balance the flavours in a soup. I especially like experimenting with baked goods: subbing birch syrup in for maple and seeing what happens. Usually, that’s something delicious.

Mini-Tarts
Yield: 24

Birch Syrup and Pecan Mini-Tarts

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup early-season birch syrup
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp Two Brewers Whisky (or vanilla)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375℉. Cream butter until fluffy and beat in brown sugar. Whisk in birch syrup, beaten egg and whisky or vanilla—the mixture may curdle, but don’t worry. Stir in pecans at the end.
  2. Pour about a tablespoon of the mixture into each shell.
  3. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 3 minutes, then shift tarts to the middle rack and bake for another 17 minutes. If the top crust seems to be browning too soon, cover with a piece of parchment paper. Cool on a rack and serve at room temperature.

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