Nocino is something we make in June in Italy, although it can be made at anytime when you can find green, unripe walnuts. Traditionally, Italians recommend the walnuts be harvested on San Giovanni which is celebrated on June 24. It really is amazing that these bitter, rather ugly walnuts turn into a delicious liqueur over time but if treated with care the results are well worth the effort. Most Italians use grain alcohol to make nocino, and then dilute it with a sugar syrup before bottling it, but I personally find the grain alcohol to be a bit strong. I prefer to use a mild tasting plain vodka instead of the grain alcohol when I make my walnut liqueur.
The juice from the walnuts will permanently stain anything it comes into contact with which I learned from personal experience, so do wear gloves when working with the walnuts. I’ve made this liqueur a number of times so far, and I’ve found that the liqueur really does mellow and improve in flavor over time. Once strained and bottled, I would recommend that you store the liqueur for a year before you drink it. Serve very small glasses of this liqueur as an after dinner drink to sip on as a special treat.
Leave the liqueur sit for one year for the best results.
The green walnuts steeping in the vodka.
Deborah Mele 2011
- 2 1/2 Dozen Large Green Walnuts
- 3 Cinnamon Sticks
- 5 Whole Cloves
- 2-inch Piece of Vanilla Bean
- 2 Star Anise
- Zest of One Lemon or Orange, Cut Into Strips
- 2 1/2 to 3 Cups Granulated Sugar
- 1 Liter Light Tasting Vodka
- Rinse and pat dry the walnuts, then cut them into quarters with a sharp knife.
- Put walnuts, spices, zest, sugar, and vodka into a large glass container with a lid.
- Close the jar, and stir to mix well.
- Store for a minimum of 6 weeks, stirring daily.
- When you are ready to bottle, remove the walnuts and solids with a slotted metal spoon.
- Strain the liquid through several layers of cheesecloth into sterilized glass bottles with lids.
- Store the notion in a cool, dark place for a minimum of 6 months before drinking.