Nocino (green walnut liqueur)
This delicious liqueur is traditionally made on 24th June, the day of St John the Baptist, when (at least in warm parts of Italy) walnuts are at the perfect point of (im)maturity. This is my version of the recipe, based on that I learnt from the lovely Giulia Savini at her organic agriturismo, Valle Nuova.
The walnuts should still be just soft enough to cut through the whole thing (unpeeled) with a big heavy chef’s knife – cut notch then lift knife with walnut attached and whack down on board. The nut revealed inside should be jelly or semi-jelly, with nuttiness just beginning to form. They stain your hands and board like anti-theft capsules stain clothes. Be warned.
If you can’t get pure alcohol (I don’t think it’s sold in the UK), use the strongest vodka you can find and reduce the amount of water in the sugar syrup by 500ml.
Note that your liqueur will taste horrible at first, good after a year, and delicious after two. I’m yet to discover just how wonderful it gets after three years in the bottle…
33 green walnuts, washed and halved
1 litre pure alcohol (ie 95%+)
2 small pieces cinnamon stick
2 strips lemon zest
1.25 litres water
- Combine walnuts, alcohol and flavourings in a large jar and leave in the sun for 40 days, shaking occasionally. It will changes colour from yellow-green to dark brown and ends up looking like ink.
- Heat water, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain alcohol through a sieve lined with wet muslin and mix with cooled syrup. Bottle and leave at least a year.