ITALIAN ELIXIR: NOCINO

My mother was never a drinker…but she and her friends would occasionally indulge in Kahlua and Cream (it was the 80's). I remember getting to sip it as a kid (just a taste) and loving the coffee mocha taste…it was, truthfully, more of a dessert than a beverage. These days I am a wine person almost exclusively (Moscow Mules, Margaritas, and Mojitos are a general exception) but there is a nostalgia that comes with sweet liqueurs that makes them really appealing. They are also really easy to make and, as with anything alcoholic and handmade…make great gifts.

Last year, I came across some strange looking green fruits at the farmer's market, and the woman at the stall told me to "Buy them, follow my recipe, thank me later". She was referring to making Nocino, the Italian liqueur made from green walnuts that have been soaked in alcohol for 40 days (with spices). Now is the time-- if you come across a stand selling strange looking small, green balls…buy them! Green black walnuts are in season for a very short period of time -typically the height of their season is May-June, but sometimes you can get them into August. This is a simple process, but it does require the elusive element of patience…it's an 80 day event. Trust me, it's worth it… The Mr. loves my 2013 vintage so much, I have yet to be able to give away more than one bottle (I made 10 8oz bottles).

Basic Nocino (adapted from Cooking with Rosetta)

2 dozen-ish green walnuts -- ideally, the walnuts you buy are round globes that are soft and easy to cut. The ones I used (pictured) were not…they had already started developing a woody shell and were really difficult to cut. I used a really sharp knife and was very careful…if you are able, buy the softest green walnuts you can find)

1 bottle of Everclear (151 proof), 750 ml

Zest of one lemon 

2 sticks of cinnamon

12-15 cloves

1 vanilla beans, split

4 cups water (1 liter)

3 cups sugar

plastic gloves

Large jar with rubber seal/clamp (Costplus has these)

Bottles with corks for the finished product! 

 

Wear gloves and use a plastic cutting board; the juice of the walnuts will stain your hands as well as the cutting board.

Cut the green walnuts in quarters lengthwise, and then cut each quarter in half. You will end up with eight pieces per walnut.

Place the cut walnut pieces with the alcohol and the lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla bean in a canning jar with a rubber gasket and clamp-type lid, or any other jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Cover and leave the jar on a window sill for the next 40 days. Make sure that the walnuts are covered by the alcohol. Do not open the jar.

After 40 days, the liquid should look dark brown in color.

After this time, make a simple syrup by placing 4 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar in a pan over a low flame and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  When the sugar is dissolved, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Make sure that the sugar mixture is completely cooled before adding it to the infused alcohol or the liquer will become cloudy.

Pour the mixture through a mesh colander to separate the spices and walnut shells from the liquid- put the alcohol back in the original jar sans debris. Add the cool simple syrup to the alcohol.  Put the jar away in a cool place for another 40 days.

After 40 days, you can bottle it and store it - perfect hostess gifts for those holiday parties!

*There are may variations to this basic recipe. One recipe I found added orange peel and coffee beans…which sounds delicious. I am going to try something different every year and label my bottles with the flavor profiles.

 

- See more at: http://cookingwithrosetta.com/nocino-walnut-liqueur/#sthash.LIIVvqsd.dpuf