Tag Archives: wine

Birch sap in a jar

Invigorating, confusing joyous learning

One of my favourite things in life is learning new things. It is when I feel my most alive, when I feel my eyes are widest and the world seems, more amazing somehow. I expect there is a percentage of folks out there to whom things come easily, gifted folks who are “naturals” at certain things. I am not one of them.

Learning is rarely straight forward and most times I find myself excited, confused and exhausted all at the same time. I also fail, a lot. I’m not bragging that I’ve gotten things wrong, I certainly never set out with a mindset of anything other than success, it’s just the way I learn best. Over the last four decades I’ve come to accept that this is how things go. I’ll happily tell you I am bound to make every mistake acquiring a new skill might entail, but so long as I am not repeating those mistakes and getting stuck, then in my mind at least, it’s a win.

With that in mind, so far in 2017 there has been a lot of learning along side some marginal gains. Our first succession sowing of heirloom and heritage beans are off to an amazing start, the tomatoes are tentatively stretching up out of the seedling soils and the sap collection from our Birch is in the final quarter of what might be the shortest season on record! The same unusually high temperatures that are helping the seedlings yawn to life has also put the bushes and trees into overdrive and “bud burst” is just around the corner. I’m guessing we’ll start seeing leaves in 48 to 72hrs. I love this time of year, the rush of life and sense of urgency in the awakening of things. Conversely, it also means our new venture into Birch Syrup is at risk of being cut short this year which will probably mean more trials next year!



2017 Season, First day of spring

Spring and new things

The first day of spring saw us greeting an articulated lorry parked at the base of our drive. We’d not expected it for several more days but were more than happy with it’s early arrival. It was delivering what quite possibly the only Maple Syrup evaporator to ever ship to Norway.

As luck would have it our good friend Darren is visiting us from the UK right now. Along with being my other half’s best friend he’s also an engineer so getting to build a thing neither of them had ever seen in real life was exactly the sort of challenge they enjoyed.  As you might imagine they managed just fine, and even made sure it was easy to disassemble should the need ever arise.

Those of you who are fascinated by trees (like i am) will know of course that the Sugar Maple is not native to Norway and you may also know that the Norwegian Maple does not share the high sugar sap of it’s more famous brethren. We’re actually taping Birch. Birch sap has a sugar content of roughly 1% which is half of that of Sugar Maple. This is the primary reason Maple Syrup is “a thing” whilst Birch is not. More accurately perhaps, it is why Birch was not,  it is now. Say what you will about technology and our advancements, it’s because of these specifically of Reverse Osmosis technology that the harvest of Birch Sap for the making of Syrup is now viable.

Birch Sap itself has been a popular “crop” in colder climates throughout history, Russians and Estonians used it for the making of beer and spirits, North American native peoples would drink it as a spring tonic. I believe that Norwegian Birch Syrup can become a product that chefs and people who throw dinner parties want in their pantry. I have the same hope for Birch Wine, but I’ve less reservations about that since decent wine sells itself. Only time will tell though, and we’ve a steep learning curve ahead of us!

Our production this year is more of a sampling than anything, we’ll be the Norwegian “pioneers” of the product so getting people to try it is a big part of this year’s goal.  No one has produced Birch Syrup or Birch wine commercially here and very few people have even done so for themselves. In a way this is fantastic, a wide open opportunity and people appear to be curious. Fingers crossed!

This season we will harvest Birch Sap from 60 trees in out “home pasture” This should mean approximately 500 litres of sap which we’ll then use for syrup and wine to trial as products. I’ve had Birch Syrup from Kahiltna Birchworks the Alaskan Birch Syrup pioneers and Birch Wine from the lovely folks at Organic Lea and know that making an excellent product is possible, it’s just the learning curve to get there! I’m confident I can make the wine, I’ve a few years of successful wild wine under my belt it’s learning to use the evaporator that may be tricky.  Anyhow, it’s warmed up to +7 so it’s time I go collect the sap!




Wild wines and liqueurs

For about four years now, I’ve been an avid amateur wine maker. I like wine and I live largely surrounded by a plethora of wild bramble, unmanaged fruit trees and forgotten hedgerows, it was only a short while before I put to put two and two together and begin to make my own.

Largely, my efforts have been a success owing to Jack Keller’s brilliant website. To date I have made, dandelion, blackberry, plum and sloe wines. I’ve also made some cherry vinegar. It was supposed to be wine, but at least it’s nice to clean with or on salad! Last year I had a bumper production of a whopping 25 bottles. One bottle remains of the sloe which was by far my favorite,  and shall make the trip to Norway.

By now, I should be surrounded by the gentle “ploop, ploop” of secondary fermentation from all of my favorites, but this year I can not partake. It is killing me. Instead, I’m making infusions. I like  them too, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a pale comparison compared to the sense of achievement I get from making wine.

With infusions, you’re virtually guaranteed a good out come. You’re starting with gin or vodka or maybe even brandy, all of these  are from a shop and as such are more or less drinkable. This is not to take away the magic of making a furniture polish grade hard liquor into a sublime and palatable liqueur like the December favorite, Sloe Gin. In fact, I’d encourage anyone who has never made their own liqueur who wants to turn a forage into something amazing to do it. Sloe Gin is simple and very rewarding! If you can’t find Sloes or if you’re not one hundred percent sure what how to identify them, go for another soft fruit. Blackberries are  abundant in most of the United Kingdom and are easily identifiable. I quite like Blackberry vodka.

All you need to make a soft fruit liqueur is the store bought 40% alcohol, a jar, the fruit and some sugar. Exact measurements are not necessary. The more sugar you  use the faster the liqueur will be ready (within reason) and the sweeter it will be. My personal preference is about 25% of the jar to be sugar, 25% fruit and fill to the top with the alcohol. Shake daily until all sugar is dissolved and let the mix mature for one month. Sloe Gin matures very slowly and takes a minimum of three months, but gets infinitely nicer after a year or longer.

Some people remove the fruit after a week, The longer you leave soft fruit, the more it breaks down, so if you want use it I’d do so while after a week when it is still relatively solid.

Personally I prefer gin for sloes,  vodka for cherries, blackberries and plums.  I prefer plum liqueur to plum wine so if I happen to be lucky and get quite a bit, if I get I also do a brandy.

Be forewarned, making your first infusion liqueur is a very likely stepping stone to making wild wine!