Foraged Syrups, Sweet and Wild
Syrups are an easy way to preserve your wild harvest, and once made, they’re very versatile. Use them as cocktail ingredients, in marinades, over ice cream, or on pancakes. Making foraged syrups lets you enjoy the peak flavor of these wild ingredients all year long.
These syrups will last for several months in the refrigerator. For longer term storage, process them in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Unopened, processed syrups will last for at least a year on the shelf. My guess is you’ll devour them long before a year is up.
Shagbark Hickory Syrup
I’d love to make tree syrups, but tapping multiple trees and boiling sap for hours is a little daunting. So I was thrilled to learn I could make a quicker, easier syrup by boiling the bark of the shagbark hickory tree (Carya ovata). It’s easy to harvest bark without damaging the tree, and the syrup has a unique smoky flavor.
Shagbark hickory trees have a distinctive bark: long pieces turn up at the ends, giving the tree a shaggy look. To harvest the bark, break off pieces 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) long from the loose ends of the bark strips. Don’t peel off any bark that is firmly attached to the trunk of the tree. This can create wounds that invite insects and disease.
Shagbark hickory syrup can be used in place of maple syrup on pancakes or waffles. Use it to flavor sorbets or ice cream, in a glaze for chicken, pork, or salmon, or as a cocktail ingredient. Try mixing it with equal parts sumac-infused rum for a special treat.
Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) powder doesn’t dissolve in water the way cocoa powder does. If you want a silky smooth carob syrup, you’ll need to boil whole carob.
How will you use your carob syrup? Stir some into hot or cold milk, the way you’d use chocolate syrup. Pour it over ice cream or frozen yogurt. Drizzle it on fresh figs, pears, or sharp cheese. Use it in marinades, or to flavor salad dressings.
Wild Ginger Syrup
In liquid form, wild ginger can flavor cocktails, soft drinks, sorbets, or marinades with its complex taste. Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) syrup can be made with fresh or dried wild ginger. The general rule for adjusting recipes from fresh to dried spices recommends using 1/4 as much dried as you would fresh. Dried spices have had all the water removed, which concentrates the flavor…that’s why you use less.
Wild ginger syrup is equally delicious in sweet or savory foods. Use it as a base for ginger ice cream, sorbet, or granita, or, create a marinade for fish or chicken with wild ginger syrup, soy sauce, and peanut oil.
First published October 2016