Take to the Woods by Emily Giles
There’s snow everywhere and the roads are too slick to drive on. I have a freezer full of meat and a lot of time to experiment. Let’s take to the woods. I’m searching for the Shagbark Hickory as it stands out easily with its peely, shaggy bark which peels up and down. I’m careful not to confuse it with the Southern White Oak which also has peely bark but peels side to side.
People often ask what you can find to eat or use for medicine in the winter and this is an easy one that stands out! In the fall and into early winter you can find the hickory nuts and make a delicious hickory milk which is quite easy to do and the nuts are easy to store. They are filled with vitamins and minerals and low in saturated fat. However, we can’t find them easily now with all this snow on the ground but what is still easy to spot and readily accessible year round is the bark.
Simple enough, find your tree and peel off some pieces of the outer, peely bark. Put them in a pot of water to make a strong tea and strain out the bark. Turn your strong tea into a simple syrup using a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water and your done. You’ve now made hickory syrup which has a sweet yet smoky flavor. It’s not my favorite syrup over pancakes but delicious over meat. A few options to experiment with are ham or a pork loin, over meatballs, or you can add it with whatever homemade jerky you making! If you’ve ever been to one of the Herbal Extravaganzas at A New Life Herbs on the Somerville square, you’ve probably already tasted Hickory Syrup Meatballs as it is one of my favorites.