Currently in Canada, the production of birch syrup is not regulated. This is unlike maple syrup (from sugar maple sap) which is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) through the Maple Products Regulation. The responsibility of birch syrup producers wishing to sell their product is that their product(s) be safe for consumption. The method by which this is achieved varies between producers resulting in substantially different products.
1) What sugar density (°Brix) is the pure birch syrup finished to?
Syrup density is directly related to how well product quality is maintained during storage and is measured in degrees Brix (° Brix). As there are no standards, in Canada, for birch syrup, producers have the option of (i) developing their own standards or (ii) adopting the standards in Alaska or those used in the Canadian maple syrup industry. The legal density for pure maple syrup in Canada is 66 gr. dissolved solids per 100 ml. liquid, referred to as 66° Brix. Although sugar content is related to density, the Brix value is not the true percentage of sugar content as tree sap syrups also contain other dissolved solids. As 98% of dissolved solids in maple syrup are sugars, the Brix value is a good approximation of % sugar in maple syrup. As such, this can also be defined as for 100 kg. of maple syrup at 66° Brix contains 65 kg. of sugar. The density of 66° Brix for maple syrup is an Identity Standard which protects consumers when they are purchasing a particular product. This ensures the consumer that maple syrup in Canada has been processed to a certain standard and sugar density. Maple syrup with a density of less than 66° Brix may spoil more quickly whereas if the density is higher than 67° Brix, sugar crystals may form when the syrup is stored a room temperature.
Dissolved solids in birch syrup are approximately 90% sugar; as such, the Brix value must be multiplied by a 0.9 factor to compensate for the other dissolved solids and achieve the true sugar density. Hence, a birch syrup finished to 66° Brix contains 59.4% sugar. In Alaska, the Alaska Birch Syrupmakers Association has stipulated 60% sugar (66.7° Brix) as the minimum density for pure birch syrup but they state that the ideal concentration of birch syrup is 74° Brix (66.7% sugar).
It is important that this question be asked as sugar density determines how much sugar is in the syrup. A syrup processed to a lower density not only contains more water and less sugar, it may also not have a stable shelf life.
At Moose Meadows Farm, we aim to finish our pure birch syrup to a density of 60° Brix as we have found with the acidity of birch syrup (4.6 pH), birch syrup is shelf stable at 60° Brix
2) Adding a stabiliser (e.g. fructose, organic cane sugar) to your birch syrup.
An acceptable way of finishing birch syrup is to add a stabliser. The most common stabiliser is fructose (as this is the predominant carbohydrate in birch syrup) but some producers are known to add organic cane sugar. Typically, the producer would process the sap on the evaporator to a minimum of 35% sugar (38.9° Brix) as this is the point when the syrup has developed a full colour and flavour and a sufficient amount of stabiliser would be added to finish the product to the desired sugar density reading (approximately 66° Brix). The resulting product has a milder, less intense flavour than pure birch syrup.
At Moose Meadows Farm, we do offer a fructose stabilised product and a organic sucrose product processed to 66° Brix.