Shagbark Hickory – Carya Ovata – Walnut Family (Juglandaceae)
Prepare to have your mind blown with a simple recipe that anyone can do. Supply yourself with a delicious syrup with only a few ingredients with minimal preparation.
FIRST though, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tree. Identifying Shagbark Hickory is actually super simple due to its distinctive rough shaggy bark. separating into long narrow curved strips loosely attached at the middle. 5 (rarely 7) elliptical or ovate leaflets. The nut, elliptical with slightly flattened/angled with edible nut inside.
Knowing now how to identify Shagbark Hickory makes collection 100% easier for the ingredients for your Syrup – The Bark. I not only recommend but insist that you only collect the fallen bark found at the base of the tree. Pulling the bark off the tree could damage its life and it truly isn’t necessary. The bark itself has a high content of oils and natural sugars.
I collect 4 pounds worth of bark to make the syrup ( ratio of one pound of bark to produce one liter of syrup) Which is then washed under cold water with a scrub brush. Try to collect bark that has little to no lichen on it, as that will make it bitter to taste. The little that is left on the bark before washing can be scrubbed off easily.
First wash then Roast the Shagbark Hickory pieces you collected
Shagbark Syrup Recipe & Method
- Collect Shagbark Hickory ( 4 pounds approximately)
- Wash the Shagbark Hickory with a scrub brush
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Roast wet shagbark hickory for an hour (this is where your home will start smelling delicious). The roasting releases the sugar & oil
- Transfer roasted hickory bark to a 50 liter pot and fill with 40 liters of water (I use ionized water but distilled can be used)
- Bring water to a rolling boil then let simmer for 2 hours
- Pull out all the bark and set aside (filtration of the syrup will come later)
- You now essentially have a Hickory Tea
- Reduce remaining liquid down to 2.5 liters on simmer (takes approximately 12 hours) – You can reduce to half if you want your syrup to be lighter. I prefer mine to be dark and concentrated
- Once reduced – pass the liquid through a coffee filter or cheese clothe to collect the remaining bark pieces/ particles
- You may or may not want to add additional Sugar – Suggestion is to make a simple syrup with the remaining liquid. Taste it beforehand. It may not need it.
This Hickory Syrup tastes like a Smoky version of Maple syrup without the necessary tapping and collection of sap. It is undeniably delicious and anyone could make it. The amazing aspect of this recipe is you don’t have to live in the Maple sugar bush as long as you have access to the outdoors and can identify a shagbark hickory tree. I bottle my syrup into 200ml bottles (makes about 12 portions)
It’s perfect on Pancakes, Waffles & Crepes but let’s not forget about cocktails, mocktails, Coffee or hot chocolate. I also love it on my morning Granola with fruit and yogurt.
Can’t start my day without it.
Dry the Shagbark used in the recipe and add it to your smoker the next time you BBQ. Or as kindling in your fire place.