Everybody's familiar with maple syrup and maple sugar, but sugar maples aren't the only tree from which you can extract sugar and syrup. Many trees, including birch trees, also produce sap that is high in sugar. You can tap any kind of birch to make sugar or syrup: Golden birch and black birch syrup have a slightly wintergreen flavor, while the syrup and sugar from white paper birch are milder and more neutral. Birch trees are tapped in much the same way maple trees are, but the sap has to be processed for much longer than maple sap.
Tap birch trees in the early spring when the sap is beginning to flow. Daytime temperatures should be in the 40s Fahrenheit, while at night, it should still dip below freezing. Tap only healthy trees that are at least 12 inches in diameter.
Drill a hole into the birch tree about 3 feet up from the ground. The hole should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep and the same diameter as your spikes, which usually are 3/8 of an inch wide. Dig the hole on the sunniest side of the tree, and slope it slightly upward.
Clean out the hole and tap the spikes in with a rubber mallet. Tree spikes may be found at home and garden stores or from country living supply catalogs.
Hang a bucket from the spike and cover it to keep out bugs, leaves and rain water. You can use any 5-gallon bucket or similar container---some people even use old milk jugs---or order specially designed sugaring buckets with hooks and lids.
Collect the sap every day in the late afternoon and bring it inside to your reservoir, which can be a large, clean garbage can. You will need approximately 99 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup, and even more to produce sugar.
Keep the sap cool (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit), and process it as soon as possible. Do not collect several weeks worth of sap to process together; start working with it as soon as it comes in.
Transfer your sap into the evaporator. You can simply boil it in wide, shallow pans on a stove top or over a fire, or you can buy a commercial syrup evaporator. Boil for several hours until it thickens into syrup (this may take all day). To make birch sugar, continue boiling the syrup until nearly all the liquid is evaporated. Stir often to prevent the sugar or syrup from burning.
Remove all spikes from the birch trees when you are done collecting sap. There's no need to patch up the hole; the birch tree will heal on its own.