Fermented birch sap is very popular in Eastern Europe. As spring arrives, the beauty of nature is broken by bottles and buckets hanging from branches and tree trunks, mainly in birch and maple trees.
The bottles are slowly filled with the clear, slightly sweet, watery birch or maple sap. The juice is wonderful to drink fresh, though some like it better fermented. Fermented birch sap is tangy and refreshing when served cold. Birch sap is slightly sweeter after a cold winter.
Birch sap is also found on markets and in shops. We drink fresh sap as long as it’s available, which is too short. Fermented sap keeps longer.
Fermented birch sap surprisingly refreshing
You might get a pleasant surprise when tasting fermented birch sap for the first time. While fresh birch sap is slightly sweet, when fermented it turns crisply dry, tangy, and slightly sparkling.
Some years ago a farmer producing fermented birch juice in Latvia appeared at the World Organic Food fair in Germany. He received so many orders that he had to turn away most of them as he was short on birch juice. People were amazed at how fresh and pure the taste is. But is birch sap healthy?
Properties of birch sap
Interestingly, fresh birch juice has a similar chemical profile as coconut water. Tree sap contains a number of micronutrients.
- Saponins (phytochemicals)
- Sugars (xylitol)
- Essential oils
- Amino acids
Tree sap has traditionally been used for its purifying and diuretic properties. The sap is said to promote the elimination of waste from the body like food additives, coloring, uric acid, phosphate, and other substances. Therefore, birch sap is used for kidney stones, arthritis, inflammatory conditions, and to promote supple skin.
Birch sap is structured water
Birch sap is also structure water which might explain the many benefits. Studies show that structured water support the body cleansing out toxins and waste, regulate weight, strengthened immunity, supply cells with organic acids, stimulate metabolism, rinse salt precipitation from bone joints, and perform other functions.
Research into birch sap’s anti-aging properties at the University of Latvia has prompted some companies to launch a line of birch sap products. Studies on birch juice show that it may stimulate the growth of dermal and epidermal cells and help delay cell ageing. However, for a stronger effect on the skin, a more concentrated birch sap is used in studies.
It seems that birch sap might rejuvenate and protect skin cells from oxidative stress, including ultraviolet rays, environmental pollution and consequences caused by inflammation.
As with most fermented food, also fermented birch sap may have increased benefits compared to fresh juice. Fermenting tree sap was originally a simple way to preserve the juice for a longer time. During fermentation, several new compounds are created boosting its potency. Fermentation also makes it easier for the body to assimilate micro-nutrients present.
Fermenting birch sap
Fresh birch sap contains beneficial microorganisms that will start to ferment the juice in a few days at room temperature. A sign of this is that the clear sap turns cloudy and slowly turns slightly tangy. The fermented juice can be enjoyed right away or used as a base to produce a fizzier drink.
Adding more bubbles
Here’s one way to produce a fizzier fermented birch sap. Adding sugar promotes more bubbles.
- Pour fresh (or slightly fermented) birch sap into a clean bottle that can be tightly closed
- 1 teaspoon sugar per quart of juice
- A few raisins (support fermentation)
- 1 clove (prevents mold)
- 1 small black currant branch (great taste)
- Leave the birch sap to ferment at room temperature; in 5-7 days it should turn slightly tangy.
- Pout the juice into bottles that can be tightly closed.
- Store in a cool place for another 15-20 days.
Try a different taste in each bottle, for example peppermint (a clear winner), lemon, juniper berries, ginger.
Sparkling birch sap
If you want even more bubbles, add more sugar.
- 1 quart fresh (or slightly fermented) birch sap
- 2-3 teaspoons sugar
- 4-5 raisins
- Citric acid (or a small piece organic lemon)
Preparation: Add sugar, raisins, and a little citric acid to each bottle. Fill the empty wine or champagne bottles with fresh birch sap until the neck, i.e. not completely full. Put the cork on and tighten the cork with a string to hold it in place when the pressure in the bottle increases. After 15-20 days or longer it should be ready to drink.
Enjoying fermented birch sap
Most experts say birch sap can be treated as water, so it’s hard to overdose. The sugar contents of fresh birch sap are not high so it’s safe to drink for most.
Fresh and fermented birch sap are both great. But a bottle of well-fermented birch sap is hard to resist during warm summer days.
Reference: University of Latvia study