Shagbark? How Tasty Does That Sound?

A small bottle of Razz's Shagbark Hickory Syrup.

A small bottle of Razz’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup.

I went to the 99th Pennsylvania Farm Show the other day. While there, I walked past a table selling something called Shagbark Hickory Syrup. Now, that shagbark bit doesn’t really sound very appetizing, let’s just be honest. I’d never heard of it and was intrigued enough to give it a try.

The man behind the table handed me a plastic spoon with a little drop of golden syrup. Honestly, it was such a small drop I was worried I might not be able to taste it.

It hit my tongue and I immediately wanted more. It’s thinner than I expected—not a heavy syrup consistency. But the flavor is off the hook. Razz’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup tastes like honey and maple syrup had a baby. And that baby got the best characteristics of both parents. There’s also this great nuttiness and a hint of smoke.

The vendor also gave out samples of dark balsamic vinaigrette using the hickory syrup. The dressing was too vinegary to let the syrup shine, but I can definitely see its potential for being a component of an awesome vinaigrette.

Shagbark hickory syrup is made from the bark of the shagbark hickory—if you didn’t guess that, well, shame on you. The bark can be removed from the tree, but this can leave it vulnerable to insects. Bark can also be collected after it has fallen off the tree. The bark is cleaned, toasted and simmered to make a kind of tea/extract. The extract is then combined with simple syrup.

I’ve found a few different recipes. They have different reduction times and levels of sweetness, but they all follow the basic procedure above. The reading I’ve done suggests the syrup can have bitter notes, which I did not notice in Razz’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup.

I found some good information on the shagbark hickory from Brandeis University.

Check out this recipe over at Dave’s Cupboard.

And please check out Razz’s site.

Anybody have any ideas or recipes using it?

I am kicking around a few ideas using shagbark hickory syrup as a component. I am considering a panna cotta, a custard sauce, an agrodolce, and using it as part of a cure. I’ll post if I make anything good.

Have you had shagbark syrup? Ever made it? Have any tips on making your own?

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