Dark like espresso and with nearly as many subtle flavors as this caffeinated comparative drink, the green walnut liqueur known as Nocino is something you definitely want in your life. Right now (okay…maybe not right this second, but in a few months after it infuses and has time to create all of its deliciousness)! But you need to make this right now, because green walnuts aren’t available year ’round. And can you think of any better recipes for walnuts than a walnut liqueur recipe?
My first encounter with Nocino was when I went to Italy last year and visited Limoncello producer Villa Massa in Sorrento, Italy. One of the other things that they make is the green walnut liqueur known as Nocino. Since it is not produced in great quantity, it is only available in Italy. After my first sip of this sweet and seductive liqueur I was hooked.
Tradition states that the Nocino be made from green walnuts that are harvested on June 24th, the Feast of St. John The Baptist. Of course there’s more to the tradition that states they should be picked by virgins looking for a husband…..since I made my Nocino recipe from California walnuts and the odds of finding a virgin in California are fairly slim my “traditional” Nocino recipe is pretty much out the window. But who cares? It’s still going to taste fantastic…virgin or no virgin.
Unlike green almonds, that have an availability of roughly two weeks, the green walnut is available for somewhere around 45 days or so. The earlier harvested walnuts gives the Nocino a bit fruitier flavor where the later harvested green walnut has a bit more tannic flavor to it.
Like Limoncello, the Nocino recipe that people use varies by who is making it. Some people add more spices to it than others. Some let it rest longer and some let it rest shorter. The recipe you use is pretty much up to you and your particular tastes. The one constant ingredient though is the green walnut.
Cutting the walnuts is fairly easy, depending upon what stage of “greenness” they’re in. But make sure you wear gloves and use a plastic cutting board. These things stain surfaces with a gorgeous alien green color. But washing your cutting board immediately after cutting up the walnuts helps tremendously.
You’ll also need a 1 gallon jar with a tight fitting lid to contain all the Nocino goodness while it’s infusing. You want things to have a bit of room to move around. I will warn you…after about 3 days it will look like you’re displaying a gigantic jar of swamp water. The walnuts will still be visible, but you’ll see the floating remnants of the flavoring spices and the liquid will begin to turn black (it’s supposed to do that – remember I said it looked like espresso). Craig won’t pull the lid off of the jar because he’s pretty sure I’m growing some kind of swamp monster in there that will get out and wreak havoc on the house. (Of course I believe that putting a little fear into your spouse every now and then is good thing for the relationship.)
This one time…at the ironing board….
Recipe: Green Walnut Liqueur – An Easy Nocino Recipe
Summary: Makes 1 Litre
- 2 Pounds (approximately 24) Green Walnuts
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 2 Large Strips of Lemon Zest (without the white pith)
- 9 All Spice Pods
- 1/2 Vanilla Bean (split)
- 1 Litre 100 Proof Vodka
- 3 Cups Sugar
- 3 Cups Water
- Cut the green walnuts in half length wise. Then cut them into quarters. Cut them in half (the short way) again giving you 8 pieces from each walnut.
- Add the cut walnuts, cinnamon sticks, zest, all spice and vanilla bean to the large container.
- Pour the vodka over the top of the ingredients.
- Cover and give the container a good shake and let it sit for 40 days.
- After the 40 days, strain the liquid from the solids using a cheesecloth lined strainer. You can strain it again using a coffee filter to ensure that you’ve removed all of the solids (this will take a bit of time). Make sure you wear an apron (or crummy clothes) along with gloves because that dark liquid, and walnuts, stain.
- Pour the strained liquid back into the container.
- Add the sugar and water to a medium size saucepan and heat over medium high heat.
- Stir and continue to cook until all of the sugar has dissolved.
- Let simple syrup mixture (the sugar and water) cool to room temperature.
- Add the cooled simple syrup to the liquid already in the container.
- Cover and give the mixture a good shake. Store in a cool/dark area for another 40 days.
- After this second 40 days you can bottle and drink your Nocino.
- The longer you let the bottled Nocino set, the smoother it will taste.
- Serve well chilled or at room temperature.
Some people use orange zest instead of the lemon. They also use cloves, and sometimes star anise, in place of the all spice. Feel free to mix it up according to your tastes.
Remember to wear gloves and use a plastic cutting board, those walnuts stain.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Diet type: Vegetarian
Number of servings (yield): 1
Culinary tradition: Italian