Hickory Bark Syrup

My step father has family in Canada that makes maple syrup on a commercial basis. Every year, I get a can or two from my mother. I love the stuff. Unfortunately, there aren’t many maple trees in Florida, and whose never really have the weather to get a true sap run to enable us to harvest enough sap for syrup making.

When I was pre-Paleo, I was looking for a way to make my own syrup for breakfast that replaced the high fructose garbage that gets pushed on us these days.


In researching home made syrup, I stumbled across an article that mentioned a product called “hickory Bark Syrup”, and I was intrigued. I love hickory trees. The represent the backbone of the American Spirit to me. Long, tall, tough as nails, and fruitful. The wood makes fantastic tool handles, lovely furniture (though very hard to work), and fantastic smoke for cooking. It’s RidgeRunner’s preferred wood for making bows, too. The nuts are a magnificent crop for putting up over the winters, though you earn every morsel you remove from the iron-hard shells.

And according to the article I read, you can make a world-class, “exotic” syrup from the bark of the Shagbark Hickory. By “Exotic”, I mean you simply cannot find it everywhere, it is a very unusual product, and in this capitalistic world, that means it’s pricey when you CAN find it. And those that offer it hide the recipe under mystery and misdirection. How hard can it possibly be, I wondered.

Well, I’m too self-reliant and too frugal to buy something I can make myself. So I stared refining my syrup making research, and found a fine woman in Minnesota on a homesteading forum that walked me though the process she used to use when she and her grandmother made it together back in the 40’s and 50’s:

This is a recipe for any old, old fashioned syrup.

Shagbark Hickory Syrup: This can be made by breaking up a couple strips of bark into a medium-size saucepan. Cover the bark with water and boil for 20 minutes. Strain out the bark and return the amber colored liquid to the saucepan. Over medium heat, gradually add ordinary table sugar, stirring continuously until it dissolves and the mixture reaches a consistency you desire.

This is a great syrup! You can use it the same as maple syrup.

Susie in MN


We’ve made this syrup many times, and have even passed it out to family as Christmas gifts. On Christmas Eve 2012, I made a batch, so that we would have some for Christmas morning’s breakfast.

My recipe is here:

  • Take bark from a shagbark hickory (I got some from RidgeRunner, thank you very much, Sir!), and under running water, use a stiff scrub brush to remove all debris ans as much lichen as possible. All of the lichen won’t come off, just do your best.
  • DSCF8265Break the cleaned bark into pieces and place them in a pot of water, being sure the bark is covered. Bring to a boil, the reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. This should result in a dark tea.
  • Strain all solids out
  • Put back over heat, and again bring to a boil.
  • Add 1 1/2 time the sugar as there is tea. For a half gallon of water, use 12 cups of sugar.
  • Heat until the syrup is a thick as you like.
  • Allow to cool while you make sourdough pancakes. Take as tack of pancakes, garnish with buckboard bacon, and top with a friend free range egg or two. Cover with your cooling syrup.
  • Thank me.

Hickory Bark SyrupI make my syrup in 1-2 gallon batches so that I only have to make it once in a while. I’ve found that by bottling the boiling syrup in sterilized jars and sealing immediately, then processing in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, I have no problems with spoilage.

The flavor is definitely hickory, similar to maple, but a flavor all its own. I find I actually prefer this to maple syrup, as far as flavor goes. However, I can assure you that this recipe is NOT Paleo approved.

If you are looking for a unique flavor to add to your breakfast table, give this a try. The portions are mostly by eye, but you will find certain amount tend to please your palate more. I prefer my flavor strong, so I tend to add a lot more bark when making my tea mixture. I also like a thicker syrup, so I usually boil it until I get to about 225- 230 degrees Fahrenheit on my candy thermometer.

Not only can it cover pancakes, waffles, and French toast, but you can also use it to glaze meats and fruits, as a dipping sauce, or as a base for a mighty fine barbecue sauce. The possibilities are endless…

But be sure to try it over some salty bacon, THAT is my preferred way to eat it.




  1. I’ve got a maple tree in the front yard I’ve considered taping. You’re welcome to stop by and play if you want.
    I want to try the soda bottle “tap” where you cut the end of a branch off and stick it into the bottle.

  2. Another very well done post. I’m about out of the Hickory Bark syrup we made a couple of years back. It’s on my list of things to do when we’re back up in KY next month.

  3. Hi DB, excellent post. Have you ever tried or heard of making the syrup with a hickory variety other than the shagbark? Thanks

    1. I’ve not, but I’m sure it would work, its just much harder to get any other bark off the hickory trees without harming the trees.

      I’ve not tried it myself, but have heard of folks making sycamore and poplar syrup from boiling the sap, but I understand it is a much lower sugar concentration, so requires a LOT more sap to make the syrup.

  4. Thanks for this! Got tons of maple here in NC but the weather isn’t stable enough to tap the trees. We also have a great deal of shaggy bark hickory though! I’m excited to try this recipe!

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