Nocino

From: Green Walnuts: an elegantly bitter harvest

Recipe and photo by Kristen Rasmussen

Nocino-Glass-2Anyone can magically transform incredibly tannic walnuts and clear, sugary alcohol into this “black gold” Italian liqueur. I like to keep my nocino pure so I can taste the walnut-y goodness but have successfully experimented with adding vanilla bean and cinnamon. Try pouring nocino over vanilla ice cream, using it in a Manhattan cocktail in place of vermouth, or drinking it on its own as a digestif.

This recipe makes about 2 liters, but you can multiply it as necessary according to the amount of walnuts that you have on hand.

4¼ cups granulated sugar
1.75 liters Everclear (Vodka can also be used, but I strongly prefer the strong stuff, as it leads to a more robust flavor.)
50 green walnuts, cut in quarters
Optional flavorings: citrus peel, cinnamon sticks, black pepper, vanilla bean, etc.
4 half-gallon jars with lids, washed well with hot soapy water, rinsed, and air dried
Smaller bottles with lids

Divide the quartered walnuts, Everclear, and sugar evenly into the cleaned jars, then screw on the lids tightly and shake the jars vigorously. Over time the nocino liquid will darken. It happens quite fast and it’s pretty impressive! Allow jars to sit for 6 weeks in a cool dark place, shaking occasionally to dissolve sugar.

Using a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer, strain the liquid and discard the walnuts. Add any optional ingredients (vanilla bean, orange peel, etc.) and pour nocino from the jars into smaller bottles with tops, which you have washed well with hot soapy water, rinsed, and air dried. Close bottles and allow the liqueur to mature for another 6 months to 1 year. Feel free to taste the nocino as it rests to learn about the flavor changes, then begin drinking once you find it to your liking.