Nestled in the rolling hills of the beautiful Northern Appalachians, wherein the bountiful forests of the Restigouche region thrive, we find the ecologically diverse forest stands of Point La Nim, and therein, the MacCurdy Estate. Settled by our ancestors in the early 1800’s, the MacCurdys have long been stewards of the 150 acre plot, and the only remaining practicing farming family in the community. At the turn of the century my father, Jimmy, after having had suffering from the blow of the beef crisis, the loss of his father, and an ongoing battle with cancer remained stubbornly fixed on his cattle herd and the sustainable management of our forest and forage stands. Today, the estate remains a production farm of beef, and in recent years, more and more diversified in our approach to success and the continuation of the family farm. That’s where my brother, Justin, and I come in and are stepping up to the plate. Each in our own functional ambitions we are hoping to create and maintain viable, profitable additions to the overall function of the estate, in a sustainable manner, over the extent of the 4 seasons.
An ambition of his own, and in respected association to his own business venture, Nature’s Estate Farm, Jon, with the help of Justin, is hoping to continue with a second year production of a culinary jewel, and ever growing market, Birch Syrup. With the valued support and aid of a close friend, the decision was made in the spring of 2014, “lets tap some birch!”, and tap them we did. Arming ourselves with a modest 50 taps, we set out in our snow shoes with our food grade hose and lidded pails into the woodlot and the experience began. Having had set our expections based on the experience of those in the Quebec, Ontario, BC, Alaska and Scandanavian regions we were eager for the taps to flow, and flow they did.
All in all, in the first year, we had a very successful season that ran heavily for nearly a month, and more sap collected daily than could be cooked in a day under our makeshift propane burners and large pots combination of evaporation and finishing. Sales, direct to consumer, were wonderful at a price of $15.00/250ml or 2/250ml for $25.00 and overall, a few dozen cases of brix count calobrated, quality finished birch syrup went out to eager first time consumers, the last litre of which is about to find its way into a local craft beer brewers seasonal brew, birch syrup and chaga mushroom. One can hardly wait!
In comparison to maple syrup, which contains sucrose, birch syrup is also found to contain fructose and glucose as well as sucrose in its make up. This helps make for a more robust flavor which adds a wonderful profile of flavor. When comparing sap:syrup ratio, there is a notable difference between birch and maple. In maple syrup production you will find higher sugar concentration and subsequently in the area of 40:1 ratio, while with birch we are looking at a 100:1 or more ratio making small batch cooking a struggle and is a large part of the reason why a larger evaporator is necessary. Here is a link to an assortment of delicious recipe ideas: http://www.lmgtfy.com/?q=birch+syrup+recipes
Sustainable management is both vital and attainable within this ecologically diverse habitat. Both white and yellow birch are adequate in population to sustain under responsible management practices in our tapping endeavors. It is important to consider that birch syrup is an unregulated industry. I am confident that with any success that others may follow in their own operations and progress will be had in the agroforestry sector.
I’d also like to note that all of us from the MacCurdy Farm encourage and support the education of consumers in all respected methods of production and are happy to answer any questions anyone may have. Living in harmony with nature is an everlearning experience and I am adamant on establishing and maintaining sustainable and feasible ideas within nature’s estate. You may contact me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to answer any questions.
More updates to follow…