Celebrating Appalachia Videos

We Went Birch Sapping!

making birch sap drink

Over the weekend The Deer Hunter, Chatter, and I went birch sapping! I’ve written about birch sapping a few times over the years, but had never attempted to do it myself.

In days gone by it was common for Appalachian families to gather birch sap or birch pulp in Spring of the year. When I was growing up the only thing I did with birch was to chew on a twig to taste the sweet minty flavor.

I videoed our outing you can watch it below. We ended up trying two different methods. The Deer Hunter tapped the birch tree so that we could drink the sap and then we harvested some of the pulp and made a sweet drink from it.

I hope you enjoyed our trip up the mountain! To see the video I mentioned from Bill Landry about the family in Tennessee go here. Visit this post to read Sidney Saylor Farr’s account of birch sapping when she was a child.

Have you ever harvested birch to eat or drink?

Tipper

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Ruth Binder
    April 16, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    Thanks for another delightful tale of Appalachia! Tapping the birch sap is new to me. You are the greatest storyteller, Tipper, and I enjoy every video that you make for us. Good weekend to you all.

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    April 16, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    That was very interesting. I had never heard of tapping a birch tree. It is nice to know that as long as I can find a birch tree I can have something to drink. I learn a lot of things watch your videos.
    Thanks for wha you do. Dennis Morgan

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    April 16, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    I remember being sent to the woods to look for “streak’ed leaf,” a low-growing plant that looks sorta like Wandering Jew but with smaller veins and leaves. My Mother would boil it with some sugar for us to drink as a cough syrup. I seem to remember that we’d also bring back some Sassafras bark or small twigs of it to use in some sort of syrup as well. Those home remedies seemed to work much better than any “store-bought” concoctions, perhaps because they were lacking in one key ingredient – a Mother’s love for her family.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 16, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    Dad would take us birch sapping in the spring when we were kids. He would peel off a large rectangle of bark and we would scrape the inner, soft, white bark (the cambium layer) off with a spoon and eat it. It was both sweet and fiery, kinda like cinnamon. It is very similar to the taste of young ‘mountain tea’; that is, a wintergreen flavor.

    The sweet birch (also called black birch) is a different species than; for example, river birch, paper birch or white birch. The yellow birch with its flaky, gold bark, is found in the Southern Appalachians at elevations above about 3500 feet. It also has a wintergreen taste and would be – I think – another candidate for birch sapping.

    As you mention, I’m sure there is a recipe around for making birch beer the old-fashioned way. I think a missing piece is some kind of way to concentrate the flavor. Distillation comes to mind. Maybe the man who did the copper work on the cupola would make a small scale still? Or maybe just a steeping and slow evaporation would work as with sorghum.and maple syrup. I should not be surprised though if too hot a temperature would either drive off the oils that give the flavor or scorch the cookoff.

  • Reply
    Jane ODell
    April 16, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    Very cool video! Never heard of Birch Sapping, but I enjoyed watching. I don’t care for root beer, but my husband really likes it, so he would probably enjoy the birch tea. Did you have any after-effects of drinking it? Stomach issues or improvement that you noted after drinking the tea? Thanks for this! Have a great weekend! (Your friend Jane in SC)

    • Reply
      Tipper
      April 16, 2021 at 3:57 pm

      Jane-we didn’t have any issues from drinking it, nor any benefits that I could tell. I guess you might have to drink it more than a few days to see if there was indeed a health benefit. Hoping you have a great weekend too!!

  • Reply
    Tommy
    April 16, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    I noticed you all seemed to be unarmed. Don’t you have rattlesnakes around? And they’re perfectly camouflaged.

    • Reply
      Tipper
      April 16, 2021 at 3:57 pm

      Tommy-not many rattlesnakes in my area, copperheads are more common. We always keep an eye out for them both though 🙂

  • Reply
    Crystal
    April 16, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    Loved this video! Never attempted any of this but so glad to learn more about the traditions of Appalachia

  • Reply
    dee
    April 16, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    I’m always learning something of value in your posts, Tipper. The birch trees I have seen in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and PA are white with dark circles like on them. Your birch trees look dark charcoal grey with white splotches and I would not have thought they were birch trees if i was in your area unless someone told me different. In PA, especially in Lancaster, PA, the Amish sell Birch Beer. It is not a alcohol beverage. I tried a sip and it tasted like Root Beer but not as good as the Root Beer I drank from a frosty mug at A & W Drive-in when I was a teenager. I sure enjoyed that Heartland Series you had a link too also.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    April 16, 2021 at 11:29 am

    I’ve never birch sapped either but have chewed many a sweet birch twig while out hunting. There are several large birch trees on the north side of the hill on the farm, but I’m unable to reach them for now. One of Dad’s wishes was none of the timber to be cut, so it won’t be cut in our life time.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    April 16, 2021 at 9:19 am

    My cousin’s’ wife is from PA and her favorite drink is birch beer. She said she hasn’t been able to find any of the store bought brands that is as good as she remembers. I tasted birch beer for the first time a few years ago and couldn’t tell much difference in it and root beer.

  • Reply
    Catherine Spence
    April 16, 2021 at 8:59 am

    I never even knew that birch syrup was a thing until I tasted some at a Mother Earth News fair in Asheville. It was some different from maple syrup, but I liked it. Can’t find any around here where I live, though!

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 16, 2021 at 7:33 am

    I think that’s amazing, who would have thought there was that much liquid in a tree, and you plugged the hole when you got through. I wonder how long the “juice” would run if you didn’t plug the hole. There is a whole other world in the woods that we usually don’t even think of or acknowledge.
    The Deer Hunter loved the woods from his early childhood and still now loves them!

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