I like maple syrup on my porridge. It’s sweet, nutritious and tastes great. It’s also expensive. So yesterday morning Elizabeth said to me, ‘Why don’t you tap the Walnut trees in the garden? There’s loads of them.’
‘Oh yeah,’ I said looking out over the walnut grove of the chateau we look after over the winter. It once produced nuts on a commercial basis, now it’s tired and overgrown. And while the trees still produce nuts, they’re only appreciated by the family of wild boar who have taken up residence there.
The truth is there’s an untapped reserve of walnut syrup on my doorstep. So I rushed out to tap it. The results were spectacular. Here’s how you do it.
1. Find a walnut tree – this is an English Walnut, but Black Walnut trees are equally good. The best time to tap them is now (February/March). Cold nights (preferably freezing) and warmer days. In the morning about 10 o’clock.
2. Drill a hole about a centimetre in diameter at hip height. PS. If you’re planning to use your walnut tree for making chairs and tables – don’t do this!
3. Push a metal spout like this into the hole.
4. I don’t have one like this – this is one from Canada (where else). So I used a piece of cut off hose and jammed it in.
5. It works fine (little bit of leakage down the tree). Now you need to set up a bowl underneath and wait.
6. When I first did this, I thought the sap would be already treacly and brown. But it actually looks like water, which you can drink and tastes really nice. This bowl took about three hours to fill, but it depends on the conditions.
7. The next step is to take it inside to boil down, or set it up on an open fire.
8. Let it boil away furiously. Open some windows as there’s loads of steam. Hence why it’s better outside!
9. Drink coffee while you wait. It takes about two hours for 5 litres of sap to boil down.
10. Boil until you get a brown syrupy liquid in the bottom. But don’t boil it down too much as it will cool down and solidify more. (And don’t forget about it either and burn it. Or your house down!). Then decant it into a bottle or jar. Et Voila! 100% pure English Walnut syrup grown in France.
11. The one above is a touch too syrupy for my liking. I made that yesterday. The one below I made today and is about right. A lovely rich colour.
OK, I know what you’re saying. ‘You don’t get a lot, do you?’ No you don’t. About 35mls of syrup from 5 litres of sap. But it’s great fun to make, especially with children, plus you’re connecting with nature from the inside out as it were. So how does it taste? Play video to find out!
12. Philip Ogley tasting his home-tapped Walnut syrup.
For more information on other trees that can be tapped, visit site: https://wildfoodism.com/2014/02/04/22-trees-that-can-be-tapped-for-sap-and-syrup/
Photograph of spout courtesy of http://homestead-honey.com/2014/03/10/beyond-maple-syrup-tapping-black-walnut-trees/