Thursday, February 20, 2014

You're Nuts!

Wayyyyy back in the summer...remember that time of warmth and sunshine???...we were intrigued by a vendor at our local Farmer's Market.  What was it?  Hickory Nut Syrup.  We had never heard of it, but the second the sample hit our taste buds, we were hooked.  This stuff will knock your socks off with the intensely incredible taste that, in our opinions, far surpasses the taste of ANY real maple syrup we have ever eaten.

Confession time, there is quite a bit of pancake syrup use in our house.  Waffles are my dearest's favorite breakfast treat, so we have them or pancakes just about every weekend and sometimes on the occasional lazy cooking weeknight.  I like maple syrup the best, but Wes prefers pancake syrup, so we primarily use that and I reserve my stash of good maple syrup for use in homemade granola.  Neither of us are crazy about the HFCS in the pancake syrup, but none of the alternative recipes I have tried seem to taste that great, plus they involve the use of artificial flavorings so, not exactly how we want to roll.

Then we tasted this stuff and immediately shelled out (ha ha, pun intended) the $15 for a HALF PINT of this sweet elixir.  Sticker shock to the extreme, but worth it for the short term enjoyment.  The couple selling this crack yummy stuff, shared with us that it was made from local shagbark hickory nuts.  Hmmm, given my propensity towards investigating how to make stuff myself, perhaps divulging that tidbit was not very smart on their part!  WHOA NELLIE!!! We have a shagbark hickory right beside our garage.  The nuts are everywhere in the Fall.  In years past, before Chase the wonder dog German Shorthair Pointer was killed, he actually had a great time chomping on these nuts (and watching the squirrels).  It always amazed us to watch the ease with which he could chomp down and crush these incredibly hard nuts.


True to our nature, we decided to try making our own.  I set forth on the journey of finding out how to do this and Wes began trying to grab all the nuts before the squirrels could get them.  My search was fairly short.  Turns out there is a lot of information about making this syrup, but for some reason, it is not done by many people.  I had the easier task.  Wes gathered huge trays of nuts that we dried out over the winter, after he removed the outer hull.  The bowl of nuts sat taunting me...until this past weekend.

The "recipes" found online, never really gave definite numbers regarding how many cups/pounds of nuts, water or sugar to use.  What have we got to lose except the time from picking up and shelling nuts, some water and sugar?  So, I winged it and guessed and stirred and sniffed and sampled...and smiled!  Bingo!



What did a bowlful of nuts, some water and some sugar yield?  A grand total of 17 PINTS (and one lonely half pint) of deep brown, rich, sinful syrup.  Wow, nothing like making the Farmer's Market price equivalent of $525 worth of syrup in my own kitchen with my own ingredients in one afternoon.  It was really quite simple to do.  An interesting side note to this little adventure is that not only can the syrup be made from boiling the nuts/shells but also from the bark of this tree.  I think we are set for a while syrup-wise!


Here's the slightly vague, but really pretty simple 411 on how I did this:

Put 8 to 10 cups of cracked hickory nuts and shells into a large (mine was 16 quarts) stainless steel stock pot.  Fill the pot, to within about 3  to 4 inches from the top, with water.  Boil until reduced by nearly one half.  Drain solids out, saving only the liquid (I used a double layer of cheesecloth lining a fine mesh strainer and strained the liquid a second time).

Pour the liquid back into the stock pot and add sugar (about 1-1/2 cups of sugar per cup of liquid.  I used granulated white sugar, but brown sugar can also be used.  If I had had enough on hand, I would have used only raw sugar, but it is what it is...and certainly is NOT HFCS!)

Boil on medium for about 45 to 50 minutes at a temperature of 220 to 234 degrees...use a candy thermometer to monitor.  Add more sugar to help thicken, if needed.  Caution needs to be used to avoid adding an excessive amount of sugar as it can crystallize out once the syrup is processed and cooled.  

Pour syrup into warmed/sterilized jars and apply lids/bands according to standard canning practices, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace.  Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.  

Easy peasy and super tasty!

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2 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, Dina! WOW! That is fantastic! Congratulations on figuring it out!

    And you know what? I bet you could make the candy too, like they do when you get the mix to crystallize. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. That last picture of your Hickory Nut Syrup jackpot made me smile. You are amazing! Thanks for writing down the process.

    ReplyDelete

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