Historically, it was ‘hickory bark syrup’… folks peeled strips of exfoliating bark from shagbark hickory trees, broke it up into pieces, boiled it, strained off the ‘liquor’, then added sugar and cooked it down.
I decided to try using nutshells left over after I cracked and picked out nutmeats from my shagbarks and shellbarks - cleaner, less bug frass, bird poop, lichens, and poison ivy rootlets than bark!
So, I just fill a big pot with nutshells - and there will be some kernel fragments in there as well - I usually pitch in a few hickory nut husks I’ve kept just for that purpose… they lend a darker color. Fill pot with water, boil for a few hours - or all day - replenishing the water as needed.
I strain the ‘liquor’ through an old t-shirt, then add 1.5 cups white granulated sugar per cup of liquid, and cook at a low boil for an hour or more, then pour off into clean canning jars, screw on lids & rings and allow them to seal. Depending on how much the syrup has cooked down, some jars will have some of the sugar crystalize out over time - I like mine thick, the consistency of Karo syrup, but if you’re accustomed to most of the watery maple-flavored pancake/waffle syrups available in the grocery… well, you don’t need to cook it down much, and may not have the crystallization issue.
I made a batch this winter using only nut husks… it came out almost black… but the flavor was great! If you don’t have shag/shellbark nuts or bark available, but plenty of mockernuts or pignuts, you could just crack the nuts in a vise or pair of vise-grip pliers, and boil the cracked nuts and husks. I tried cooking nutshells in the Crock-Pot before, and it just came out a lot lighter in color than I liked… but the slow-cooker we have now actually boils stuff on the high setting, so works better, and doesn’t heat up the house as much as keeping a pot boiling on the stove all day - and I don’t have to worry about it boiling over or boiling dry as quickly.
Reminiscent of maple syrup, but tastier to me.
It’s good on pancakes, waffles, French toast, hot cornbread, ice cream… and you can whip it into room temperature butter to make a sweet, hickory-flavored butter spread. It’s been long enough since I did that, I’d have to play around with measurements to get it right.
Bluejays and crows are infamous for carrying away pecans… and I have to shoot
several crows every year in the pecans 30 ft from the house - but you only get one chance! Woodpeckers carry a bunch away, too… there may be more woodpeckers ‘planting’ volunteer pecans around my place than crows and jays. It looks like they all probably drop quite a few… like you, I’m finding them popping up all over the place… what a problem to have! ;>)