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Érablière Escuminac Birch Syrup, Quebec

By Kat Tancock

Maple syrup is a potent symbol of Canadiana and a key staple in many of our nation’s pantries. But what you may not know is that the sugar maple doesn’t have a monopoly on the business of sweet sap. A growing industry is making use of birch trees to produce a similar sugary nectar.

Like maple syrup, birch syrup is produced by tapping mature trees—usually 30 to 70 years old, and at least 10 inches in diameter—in early spring, then evaporating and filtering the sap before bottling. Érablière Escuminac, in the Gaspésie region of Quebec, currently taps 6,000 trees annually, though the property has the capacity to harvest from up to 25,000 as demand increases.

But the big question is: How does it taste?

Birch-syrup-glazed short ribs at Canoe in Toronto

Birch syrup is thinner than maple, with a earthier flavour that leans toward molasses. But it’s just as versatile in cooking and food preparation.

Use it on yogurt, ice cream or other desserts; as a glaze for meat, fish or vegetables; or even in a salad dressing.

Or try it in a Real Canadian Cocktail, designed by culinary expert Soo Kim: Mix two ounces of rye whiskey, 1/4 ounce birch syrup and two dashes of Angostura bitters with ice; garnish with crisp smoked bacon.

Where to buy: At select stores in Quebec and Ontario, or online.

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