By Sam Castonguay
We’re so glad you asked!
Hickory syrup is yet another delicious, golden brown liquid that the forest was kind enough to grace us with. You can use it just as you would maple syrup: with pancakes, as a beverage sweetener, on vanilla ice cream, and much more! It has a beautifully smoky flavor, followed by toasty notes of molasses, honey, and grandma’s love.
Harvesting the characteristic shaggy bark of the shagbark hickory.
Unlike the more traditional maple syrup, hickory syrup made using just the bark of the shagbark hickory tree. There’s no tree-tapping or sap removal involved, but harvesting bark certainly does not make the process any easier for the tree. The shagbark hickory tree takes its name from the loose plates of bark that jut and curl outward from its trunk. Not a very original name, if you ask us. But you didn’t, so we’ll move on to reveal how we make our scrumptious hickory syrup:
Once enough bark is collected – measured in “toaster loads” by the South Hill Forest Products Hickory Squadron – it is taken indoors and thoroughly scrubbed to remove any not-so-tasty debris. The bark is then roasted to perfection in our state-of-the-art toasty box and steeped in boiling water to make a deep, earthy tea.
Next, the tea mixture is strained, returned to the heat, and mixed with enough sugar to power 30 rambunctious toddlers for weeks! The simmering process continues until the syrup is sweet, relatively thick, and reaches the magic number of 67 Brix on our refractometer (see some of our earlier blog posts to learn more about this device). All that’s left to do is pour it over your favorite breakfast dishes!
But why stop there? Check out our recipe for Hickory Nut Fudge below.
Be warned, though; hickory nuts are a tough bunch to crack!
Hickory Nut Fudge
½ cup of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of milk
¼ cup of hickory syrup
2 cups of powdered sugar
½ cup of crushed hickory nuts (or walnuts)
Line an 8x8 inch pan with foil or parchment paper, letting the foil or paper extend over sides. Grease lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle half of the cracked nuts in the bottom of the pan. Melt the butter, brown sugar, syrup, and milk over low-med heat. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the sugar is completely melted and the mixture turns to a caramel color and thickens slightly. Remove from the heat. Add the powdered sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Mixture will be quite thick now. Spread in the pan; cool on the counter top and then refrigerate until firm (2 to 3 hours). Remove foil/paper and cut into squares.