Harvesting the wonders of the forest

Harvesting the wonders of the forest

Birch syrup, might be the underachieving brother of maple syrup.  But the birch syrup, always had this untapped potential.  The sweet nectar of the yellow birch trees makes for an unique taste.

Tap that thing

When does the birch syrup run wild like the 100m dash at the Olympics? Well, it comes slightly later than maple syrup. It pours out in immense quantities, very rapidly in mid-April. I had 10 yellow birches tapped, and the amount of sap collected was overwhelming for a young buck.

From Sap to Syrup

The process of transforming the humble sap, into a rich syrup is quite the lengthy ordeal.  For instance, the cooking needs to be done on low-medium heat, in order not to burn the sugars. This mistake results into an unpleasant bitter taste, and I speak from experience. The sap is reduced quite a lot. To obtain 1L of syrup, 40L of sap must be simmered down.

Birch syrup panna cotta with Manitoulin Island hawberry coulis

This panna cotta dish best represents the Northeastern Ontario landscape.  I have harvested local birch sap, and boiled in down into a syrup with a earthy taste. Hawberries, unique berry found on Manitoulin Island, take centre-stage in the plate. The voluptuous panna cotta becoming the perfect vessel for their unique tang. If you are not from the region, don't worry, any berry does the trick.



  • 2 cups of cream
  • 1 tbsp of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of white wine (riesling)
  • 1/4 cup of birch syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sheets of gelatine
  • 1/4 cup of sour cream
  • 1 cup of hawberrys (blueberries)
  • Crushed up graham crackers

How to do it

  1. In a small pot, heat 1 cup of cream with the sugar, and the birch syrup. The mixture should come to a boil, and then be immediately removed from the flame. The process should take about 3-5 minutes, depending on the stove.
  2. Add the sheets of gelatine into the cream, and cover.  Mix with a whisk until the sheet of gelatine is completely incorporated.
  3. In another small pot, simmer the hawberries with a splash of white wine and a tsp of sugar. Reduce on medium heat until the berries become a delicious, thick jam. This process will take about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Pour the panna cotta mixture into ramekins, or your favourite small dishes.  Go nuts.  Then, refrigerate until ready to serve.  They should be refrigerated for at-least 2 hours before serving.
  5. Sprinkle on a white plate, the graham crackers, to resemble sand. On the plate, flip the ramekin upside down, and gently tap it, for the solidified mixture to slide out gracefully.
  6. Top with a generous amount of the hawberry syrup, more birch syrup, and some graham crackers.