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 Check out  articles about Razz's Hickory Syrup...


Oct 24, 2010  By Connie Mertz

For The Daily Item  - Sunbury PA

Move over maple syrup, new syrup has come to town. Who would have ever guessed that delectable tasting syrup, looking much like maple syrup, can be made from the bark (not the sap) of shagbark hickory trees?

Tom Radzwich of Hazle Township became intrigued with the idea upon reading about it. "I was already tapping my maple and birch trees on my property, and I thought why not try to make hickory syrup?

"You can only imagine what my wife, Judy, thought when I brought tree bark into our kitchen and said I wanted to try to make hickory syrup and possibly start a business," he recalls. But it wasn’t long until she was hiking with her husband in search of shagbark hickory bark.

After much research and experimentation, they were finally able to find just the right concoction. "After I made each batch, I’d ask my wife, family and friends for their opinions, and after many tries, I felt I had developed a good recipe."

The process starts with gathering fallen bark or ‘shags’. “The shagbark hickory only begins to shed its bark at about eight years old and continues to shed its bark for the rest of its life, “he explained. He has been joined by friends and customers in pursuit of finding shags. "We are always willing to trade bark for syrup," he said.

The bark is then put through a number of washes and filter processes. Water and a small amount of sugar is then added, and boiled until it reaches the consistency of syrup. It is then bottled.

Since it still remains a small family business, each batch is tasted for quality. Even the bottles are heat-sealed and labeled by hand. "The whole process from start to finish takes about six hours or so," he said.

The taste differs with each person, but all who sample the hickory syrup, find it pleasing to their taste buds. "Some describe it as smooth, complex with smokiness to it. Some even say it tastes like camping. Others just say ‘wow’," Tom Radzwich said of his syrup.

"There is some sugar added because you must remember that this syrup is made from the bark of the tree and not from a natural sweetened sap."

Judy and Tom Radzwich have named their business "Razz’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup and have even gone so far as to have it registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in February. There was a little problem. One of the requirements was that no pets could be present. "We still have family pets in our house, but my mother-in-law was very supportive and welcomed the business idea to have it made in her kitchen."

The syrup is made when there’s a need for it. Judy is the one who takes their syrup to craft shows and local events. "We usually make our product a few days before we will need it. We are still just a small home-based business, and we want our product to be as fresh as can be. Sometimes, our customers even get the syrup warm. You can’t get much fresher than that," Tom added.

Asked whether the syrup gets better with age, he quickly said, "To be honest, I don’t know. We can’t seem to keep it that long. What makes it so flavorful is the natural flavors of the hickory tree and there are no additives added. We like to keep the product as natural as possible."

Aside from the usual uses of any syrup, Tom and Judy have created their own recipes which are listed on their website. "My favorite used to be my wife’s Hickory Apple Cake, then she made Lemon Chicken, and I really liked that. I still really like it over my baked sweet potato french fries, but my all time favorite is the hickory syrup marinade over ribs."

Tom and Judy Radzwich are thankful for the many people who have not only helped, but supported them this past year. "Judy and I owe everyone who has helped us a great debt of gratitude."

For more information, including recipes, prices and upcoming events on Razz’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup, go to: www.razzshickorysyrup.com

Info: "The shagbark hickory begins shedding its bark at about eight years old and continues to shed its bark for the rest of its life. The shags have a very distinct curl which peels away from the trunk and often falls off the tree as the tree ages or in severe weather. Over time, additional shags continue to peel away from the trunk, replaced by new bark. It is the shags of the hickory tree that are gathered to produce our wonderfully unique culinary treat." - Tom Radzwich of Razz’s Shagbark Hickory Syrup.

 Connie Mertz is a hunter and nature enthusiast from Danville. Contact her at:  owcam@verizon.net




Outdoors notes and commentary for The Express-Times
Visit to Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg brings discovery of shagbark hickory syrup
Sunday, February 20, 2011

I began writing this column this past Thursday morning when it was just lightening up outside. The thermometer at the kitchen window read 34 degrees, which was a welcome break from our recent deep freeze. I opened the deck door to breathe some of the warmer air but quickly closed it because what I smelled was the unmistakable acrid odor of a skunk.

As I closed the door I heard a flock of snow geese sounding off somewhere in the distance. They'll be around for a while yet but as March approaches they'll get antsy to go back north to breed. There haven't been huge flocks of snow geese in the fields around here this year because of all the snow. But a friend who was recently in Delaware told me that they're all over the place down there below the snow line.

To break mid-winter's monotony last week my husband David and I went to the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show at the Farm Show complex in Harrisburg. I'd never been to this show before but knew it was primarily for hunters and fishermen. And it sure was! The ratio of testosterone to estrogen was about 100 to 1.

I was amazed at how crowded it was on what was the show's seventh day of operation. Parking was a nightmare. Shuttle bus lots miles away were full, and an accident on Interstate 81 South that had all traffic detoured to Interstate 83 South made things even worse. I know the Harrisburg area so we decided to limp our way in on old Route 22, but by the time we found parking we were ready to go back home.

I'm glad we didn't, though, because, as is often the case, new territory reveals new things. Carried along in the midst of a crowded wave of people, David and I almost missed a booth selling shagbark hickory syrup. Certainly, I and just about everyone else knows maple syrup, but I had never heard of shagbark hickory syrup. My first thought was that I didn't know that shagbark hickory trees were tapped for their sap like maple trees are, but I soon learned that they don't use the sap. The syrup is made with the extract of the exfoliated, or flaked off, bark combined with sugar and some other things kept secret.

This syrup isn't widely available although subsequent research revealed that it's often used by top chefs when and if it's available. I don't know if it's true but one article I read said that Julia Child used to use it a lot. It's lighter in taste and color than maple syrup, and it has a sweet but muted touch of smokiness to it.

I purchased a bottle of Razz's Shagbark Hickory Syrup because it's made in Hazle Township, Pa. They have a website where you can purchase it and also find a long list of recipes.

Shagbark hickory trees aren't very common in our area anymore, but in a 1928 book on the trees of Pennsylvania it said they were locally abundant, especially in the fertile valleys of the southeastern part of the state. So if you have one, value it highly.

Arlene Koch can be reached at sports@express-times.com.


Hickory syrup a sweet success for Hazle Township couple


Published: March 13, 2011




DOYLE DIETZ/Special to the Standard-Speaker Judy Radzwich bottles a batch of freshly prepared Razz's Shagbark Hickory Syrup that was cooked by her husband and business partner, Tom.


Now here is an outdoors activity even tree-huggers can support, as no trees are harmed in its pursuit.

For Tom and Judy Radzwich of Hazle Township, who became high school sweethearts at West Hazleton, the pursuit is turning the shags - the loose outer bark - of shagbark hickory trees into a sweet syrup that is tasty enough to stand on its own topping a stack of pancakes or as an additive to sauces and much more.

They operate their business out of her mother's kitchen, which has been inspected and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

An avid hiker, biker, kayaker and nature lover, Tom Radzwich became fascinated with the process of making hickory syrup, a talent the Eastern Woodland Indians passed along to European settlers as far back as the Plymouth Colony, after making maple syrup.

How the Indians first discovered this tasty treat is as intriguing to Radzwich as the syrup itself is to those who only think "maple" when they think syrup.

In all likelihood, Radzwich thinks it came about by accident. He envisions something along the line of those old television commercials when a careless elf spilled chocolate on peanut butter, inventing the peanut butter cup.

"When the shags are cooked, a stain is produced, so maybe one thing led to another," Radzwich said. "Or, maybe, a group of Indians was starving, began to boil some bark for food and sweetened it for a better taste.

"What we do know is that in the full year Judy and I have been making the syrup and selling it at fairs and farmer's markets it's all we can do to keep up with the demand after people taste it. A lot of times people will just walk by our display, thinking we're selling honey or maple syrup until they see 'hickory - not maple' on our sign.

"Then they want to taste it, and the proof in how much people enjoy it is the amount of return business we've had. We've met people in parking lots all over, with the Top of the 80s a regular meeting place because it's easy for people to find."

Unlike the process of making maple syrup, which requires the tapping of trees, hickory syrup is produced by collecting the outer bark - or shags - that falls from hickory trees as new bark is formed. According to most authorities, hickory trees began to shed bark when they are approximately eight years old.

Shags can also be peeled from the tree without causing damage when they begin to curl and become loose. Bark can also be collected from dead hickory trees and is usable in the process.

Plenty of trial and error - and volunteer tastings by family members and friends - went into developing the formula Radzwich now uses for his syrup. Once he found the consistency needed to market the product, the couple began to sell it at regional farm markets.

"Last fall, we thought it would be a good idea to enter our syrup for judging at the Bloomsburg Fair to give us some credibility," Radzwich said. "Unfortunately, there was no category for it because no one else is making it.

"We were asked if we would like someone to sell it for us, but turned down the offer because we like to interact with people and tell them about the product. Then, a day before the fair opened, we got a call to come and set up a table.

"Fortunately, we had some product on hand, but it really kept us scrambling that week to have enough available. After surviving the fair, we took events like the Knoebels Covered Bridge Tour in stride, and it convinced we could do this year's Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg."

Radzwich said that neither he nor his wife is ready to give up their day jobs, but the success and acceptance of their syrup has been sweeter than they ever expected.

For information on Razz's Shagbark Hickory Syrup, call             570-455-9929       or visit www.razzshickory syrup.com.

Check out the article in the Times Leader page 21



Newest article in:  February 2013 Sugaring - Syrup without a season



Check us out on WNEP Home and Backyard segment:  Shagbark Hickory Syrup



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