In the old days someone might say the were heading out into the forest to drink some “marrow into the bones” to regain their vitality after a long and dark winter. Whenever this happened they were referring to the nutritious birch sap. The sap is a real tonic that one can tap during the early spring before the leaves have opened.
The sap has a sweet, slightly wood-like, taste. One can drink it as is, or one can make Lorenzburgian “Dragon Brew” by allowing it to ferment for a fre days. Added saffron gives the drink a beautiful golden color that resembles a dragon’s golden hoard. Dragon Brew is the traditional beverage for St George’s Day on April 23. St George is of course the most famous legendary dragon slayer, maybe he had a sip of Dragon Brew to gain strength and courage before setting out on his adventures!
Method for tapping birch sap
- Drill a hole in the birch trunk, about one meter from the ground. The hole needs to be around an inch deep and 1/3 inch wide. Drill diagonally upwards so that the sap may run downwards.
- Press a rubber or silicone hose into the hole, make sure that there is no leakage of sap on the side.
- Bind a large bottle around the trunk and put the other end of the hose into it.
- A birch tree can produce several liters of sap every day so you need to keep an eye on the bottle so you can change it once it is full.
- Plug the hole once you have as much sap as you need. You don’t want to harm the tree permanently.
- The sap stays fresh for 3 days in the refrigerator and it can even be frozen for later.
Ingredients and utensils
- 8 liter birch sap
- 500 g of brown sugar
- 500 g ordinary sugar
- 200 g honey
- 3 organic lemons
- 1 g saffron
- optional: extra sugar for added sweetness later
- A large stainless steel bucket, it needs to be very clean or else mold can start to form.
- A large pot or pan, at least 10 liters.
- Brush the lemons gently under warm water.
- Grate the lemons to get all the zest and put it in the bucket together with the juices from the fruit.
- Bring half of the sap to a boil together with the sugar and saffron.
- Pour the boiled sap into the bucket and add the uncooked sap.
- Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature. Once it is around 37° Celsius stir in the honey and the crumbled yeast. Cover with cling film and allow to sit for 24 hours.
- Pour the contents into your well-cleaned pot or pan. Most of the yeast has sunk into the bottom of the bucket, you want to avoid getting any of this sediment into your new pot.
- Pour the brew into well-cleaned (preferably boiled) bottles.
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of suger to each bottle.
- Put a cork in the bottles but not too tightly. Glass bottles may crack or explode once the contents start to ferment, try to allow a little bit of space between the cork and the bottle to let the fumes escape safely.
- Put in the refrigerator.
- The Dragon Brew is ready to drink after a week.
- Keep in mind that the beverage may be alcoholic and not suitable for children.
- You can prepare a non-alcoholic version by skipping the yeast and the fermentation process.