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1 lb of Shagbark Hickory Bark for making delicious Shagbark Hickory Syrup Refresh

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  • Item # 12766034
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This is a fresh 1 lb bag of Hickory bark harvested from our age-old Shag Bark Hickory (carya ovata) trees on Franklin Mt. in Oneonta, NY.  Cleaned and ready for cooking into delicious Shagbark Hickory Syrup.  FREE USPS First Class shipping.

Halfway between the end of fig season and springtime, sometime just past the peak of winter, the sap from our mature maple trees begins to flow.  That's when you'll find my family in the woods collecting buckets full of sap to turn into maple syrup.  Last fall at Sunny Springs we scouted a new sugar bush and we're adding another 150-200 taps to our maple syrup production.  In a couple of weeks, it will be a busy season for sure.  But our search for additional mature maples led us through a corner of our property seldom used by people save the hunter willing to take a long walk through knee-deep snow and cross a few steep creekbeds.  It's a stand of mature and productive shagbark hickory trees we discovered about 10 years ago.  Our neighbors call it a honey-hole for deer because the animals are attracted to giant hickory nuts covering the forest floor.  We return to the trees every other year or so to harvest naturally exfoliated hickory bark to make Shagbark Hickory syrup.  If you've never had Shagbark Hickory syrup please keep reading.

Just like maple syrup, Shagbark Hickory syrup is a real treat but so much easier to produce and you can make it any time of the year right on the kitchen stove.  It's basically a simple or sugar syrup, less sweet than maple syrup with a wonderfully complex buttery, nutty, vanilla smoke flavor.  We cook beef and pork with it and pour it on desserts, pancakes, and waffles.  But you're only limited by your imagination here.  Shagbark Hickory syrup can be added to any recipe that calls for sugar or maple syrup, and anywhere a sweet, nutty, smoke flavor is warranted.  Shagbark Hickory syrup can be bottled and preserved for later use or to give as gifts.  Shagbark Hickory bark can also be used:

  • in a slow-smoker to smoke and season food
  • in barbecue
  • as a marinade
  • on seafood
  • brewed into a tea (Shagbark Hickory bark has a wonderful medicinal value)
  • by distilling (Shagbark Hickory shine, anyone?)
  • mixed in cocktails (pairs very well with bourbon)

Shagbark Hickory syrup has been around for generations and it was produced by indigenous Native American tribes who taught settlers how to cook it.  Toward the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, there was a thriving cottage industry for Shagbark Hickory syrup.  Around the latter part of that period, the advent of cheap commercially available syrups quickly killed the industry.  But family recipes and traditions have kept this wonderful syrup alive.  With today's focus on health, natural products, and organics, Shagbark Hickory syrup has made a bit of a resurgence.  My family now makes Shagbark Hickory syrup; The kids love it and we always have a few jars on hand.  Shagbark Hickory syrup is not made by boiling down sap like maple syrup so there's no specialized equipment involved.  Shagbark Hickory syrup is made by extracting flavor compounds from the bark.  Here's a very simple recipe that we follow:

Step 1, Toast the bark:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Separate 1/2 lb of hickory bark into manageable pieces and place on a baking sheet.  Toast the bark for 10 - 15 minutes.  After a few minutes, you'll start to smell the smokey odor of hickory.  When the bark starts to take on a gentle golden-brown tone keep an eye on it and don't let the bark burn.  Burnt bark is not good for making syrup.  When the bark is toasted remove it from the oven and set it aside to cool.

Step 2, Simmer the toasted bark:

Cover the toasted bark with water.  4-5 cups of water should do it but make sure the bark is just covered.  Bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.  This is the only trick in the recipe.  Simmering rather than boiling is important as hard boiling extracts lots of bitter tannins from the bark.  Simmer the toasted bark gently for about 30 minutes until the water turns a dark amber color.  Can cook a bit longer for a stronger flavor.  After 30 minutes remove the bark and discard or save it for a barbecue or smoking food.  Continue to simmer, reducing the volume of liquid by 25%.  Continuing to simmer after removing the bark gives the final product a richer, more pronounced flavor.  Keep an eye on the pot because this happens rather quickly.  Don't worry, it doesn't have to be perfect.  Remove from heat.

Step 3, Cook the syrup:

When the extract has cooled enough to handle, strain into a pot and measure.  Put the extract back on medium heat and stir in sugar at a 2:1 ratio; that's 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of extract.  Simmer until the syrup thickens to the right consistency.  Allow the syrup to cool before handling.

Step 4, Bottle:

When your syrup has cooled enough to handle, ladle off into jars or bottles and store in a cool place or refrigerator.  Or, be prepared to can when the syrup is hot using any safe canning method.

Tips and syrup notes:

  • You can put your own spin on this and alter the flavor with the use of coconut, cane, or brown sugars, honey, filtered, distilled, or spring water, changing the toasting time, changing the size of the pieces of bark, etc.
  • Un-canned, finished syrup can be stored in a cool location for up to 2 years or longer.  But for the best results, store in the refrigerator or preserve by canning.
  • Be very careful handling hot syrup.  Hot, liquid sugar can cause severe burns!
  • Crystallization of your finished product can occur.  We use 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar for every 2 cups of sugar used in the recipe to prevent crystallization.  Don't use corn syrup, it changes the flavor.
  • If your syrup crystallizes add it back to a pot and place over medium/low heat.  Mix in a few tablespoons of water and heat until the crystals are completely gone.  Ladel the syrup back into the jar.
  • Recipes and cooking methods will vary.  Generally, 1/2 lb of bark should give you about 2 pints of finished syrup.
  • Before toasting, breaking the bark into smaller pieces increases surface area adds flavor but will cause the bark to burn faster.  Larger sheets of bark will produce a more mellow flavor.  A happy medium is pieces 5-6 inches long and 1-2 inches wide.  But in all cases, keep an eye on the bark while it's toasting; you don't want it to burn!
  • Use a good candy thermometer.  If you're familiar with cooking candy or syrup, Shagbark Hickory syrup will finish at about the same temperature as Maple syrup, 219.5°F.  The temperature will vary by location.  Our sap house is about 1500 ft. elevation and we finish syrup about 218°F.  Cooking Shagbark Hickory syrup to a higher temperature will get you closer to candy.  Anything over 225°F and you're sure to get crystallization.  At 230°F you're making gumdrops and not syrup.
  • We don't can our Shagbark Hickory syrup the same as jams, pickles, or other foods.  We pour hot syrup into sterile mason jars, screw the lids on and that's all.  The jars will suck the lids in the same as canning.  We use a special 'jar funnel' to fill the jars.  
  • Try your syrup on everything!  Trust us; Shagbark Hickory syrup has a very complex flavor and we're surprised more than disappointed at how many food items this syrup pairs with.
  • 21 and over only!  Mix an 8 oz jar of syrup into a 750ml bottle of vodka for a wonderful sipping liqueur.