One of the most traditional drinks in Ukraine is the juice from the birch tree. In fact, this birch juice dates back even before Kyivan Rus times as something consumed during pagan rituals. These days you can find it bottled in plenty of stores in Ukraine, or collect it by hand on your property.
Birch juice is made from the sap of the birch tree. It is a thin, clear, and slightly yellow tinted liquid. Traditionally it is drank straight from the pail attached to the tree, or otherwise mixed with sugar, fruit, or herbs. Birch sap can also be boiled to make syrup.
When Is Birch Sap Collected?
Birch sap is collected at the end of winter/beginning of spring for about one month a year. This is when the sap is at it’s most runny, and before it turns bitter. Sap collected in late spring or really the rest of the year can be quite bitter and unpleasant.
It is important to note that when collecting birch sap, you must plug the hole after you are done. Birch trees are not as hardy as maple, and they can get easily infected if you leave an open hole after collecting the sap.
How To Make Ukrainian Birch Juice
Birch juice is one of the most traditional recipes in Ukraine and has spread throughout the Slavic world. However there is no set recipe one must abide by, as many people just drink the sap by itself. However fresh birch sap is not stable and will spoil in just a couple days, so making it into birch juice will preserve it longer.
1 liter Birch Sap – if you can find it in the store it is likely already stabilized. If you are collecting it yourself, make sure to strain it from any particulate before drinking.
30 grams Sugar – this is about two tablespoons. Adding more sugar will not hurt the drink, but you need to at least use 3% by weight to prevent spoilage.
Lemon – I like to add a squeeze of lemon to my birch juice as I find the citrus really lifts up the natural flavors. You can also add other ingredients like berries or spices.
In a jug just mix together the ingredients. Pour into a sealable container and place in the fridge. Keep your birch juice chilled so it stays good longer. You can also use birch juice in cocktails or mocktails!
- 1 liter Birch Sap if you can find it in the store it is likely already stabilized. If you are collecting it yourself make sure to strain it from any particulate before drinking.
- 30 grams Sugar this is about two tablespoons. Adding more sugar will not hurt the drink but you need to at least use 3% by weight to prevent spoilage.
- Lemon I like to add a squeeze of lemon to my birch juice as I find the citrus really lifts up the natural flavors. You can also add other ingredients like berries or spices.
- Mix all the ingredients together and put in a sealable jar or bottle. Place in the fridge. Stabilized birch juice will last for months if kept at a cold temperature, and can be frozen for up to 2 years.
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