Shagbark Hickory Syrup – Choice of Sizes
Announcing the arrival of our newest farm product – old fashioned homemade hickory syrup.
What the heck is that?, I hear you ask. I had precisely the same response.
I recently contacted one of our local foresters to help us identify our sugar maples so that I could try my hand at tapping them to make syrup this spring, which he agreed to do, though we’ve yet to find a day that will work for all involved. Toward the end of the conversation, in passing, he mentioned that he really preferred hickory syrup.
Since we have a LOT of hickory trees on our place, I was intrigued, and assumed we could tap the hickory trees at the same time we tap the maple trees. Au contraire. As it turns out, for hickory syrup, there is no tapping involved – the syrup is actually made from the bark of hickory trees, particularly that of the shagbark hickory. Even better, since the shagbark hickory sheds its bark throughout the year, so there is no need to wait until the sap begins to run, as with maples, and no special equipment required. We have at least half a dozen mature shagbark hickories along the driveway and the road to the barn, and easily several times that in our woods. We also have a number of other species, including a huge shellbark hickory just off the driveway between the barn and the studio. The shellbark is the preferred hickory for nut production, as they are far larger and meatier than that of the shagbark.
I promptly got online to search out recipes for hickory syrup. A few seemed improbable, and the authors didn’t inspire confidence, but the more I looked the more the same basic recipe kept popping up, albeit with minor difference from site to site. I wound up basically combining the two recipes I deemed the most likely to succeed, and decided to make my first batch of syrup to experiment.
So, during a break in the rain, I fed the boys at the studio, then let them out to accompany me as I collected bark from the large shagbark trees behind the wood bench next to the barn gate. Edit immediately headed into the barnyard to chase mice, while Bear hung out on the bench near me, and seemed mildly interested in what I was doing. In truth, he was probably just hoping for more food.
Surprisingly, they both wanted to go back into the studio – it was pretty cold out – so I let them in and walked back to the main house. I wound up with a little more than a pound of hickory bark, which I scrubbed well with filtered water and a brush to remove the lichens and any dirt or insects, and then prepared it for simmering. Bonus – while simmering the bark, our entire house smelled heavenly. After straining and adding sugar, I wound up with slightly over a gallon of lovely, dark syrup, which is absolutely delicious – if a bit too mild for my taste.
I wanted a bolder, more in-your-face hickory syrup.
On to Batch #2.
Where the original batch called for a 25-minute simmer, a couple of other recipes mentioned “boiling all day,” so I decided on a 3-hour simmer, adding water if required. Then I tried the finished product, which was handled the same in all other respects. Oh, yeah. Now that’s some hickory syrup. So if you decide to try it out, please be sure to specify whether you prefer mild or bold. They are roughly the equivalent of Grade A maple syrup, which is mild, versus Grade B, which is bolder and has more maple flavor.
Here is the official description from our Etsy Store, complete with link at the bottom:
This lovely hickory syrup is made from pure filtered water, shagbark hickory bark from unsprayed trees, Certified Organic sugar, Certified Organic Demerara sugar and Certified Organic Evaporated Cane Juice. No other ingredients are used.
This syrup has been made for generations in the Appalachians and, according to some sources; a version of it was made by the indigenous Native American tribes before the arrival of the Europeans. Hickory bark is considered to be highly medicinal by many tribes, and is still used in medicinal extracts and drunk in the form of tea, in addition to being used to smoke and season food.
Hickory bark syrup has been compared to maple syrup, but is darker in color and has a flavor all its own, at once smoky and complex. It is excellent for use on pancakes and waffles, delicious added to barbecue sauces and marinades, and can even be used to make distinctive cocktails. You are limited only by your imagination in the kitchen!
The hickory bark used in this syrup comes from the many mature shagbark hickory trees we have on our farm, which have been entirely unsprayed for at least four years, and most likely for their entire lives.
This syrup can be stored unopened in a cool location for up to a year, but for best results, it should be refrigerated after opening.
We are a small non-certified organic farm in Middle Tennessee. This syrup, and our other products, are produced in small batches in a home kitchen that is not USDA inspected, but which is filled with warmth, heart and a lot of love!
We welcome your comments and suggestions on how we can make it even better!
Crescendo of Peace Farm, Doyle, TN 38559
Please give us some feedback if you do decide to give it a try. I would love to know how you like it, and especially how you wind up using it – I already have about a dozen different dishes I want to try it in, and I have no doubt that once I start going, I’ll just keep coming up with more.