Walnut Liqueur (Nocino) Recipe
While visiting a friend in Gols last summer, he showed me the walnut liqueur he was making and described the process he used. Walnut liqueur is a traditional Italian liqueur called nocino. While I’d never tasted it before, I was keen to give it a try. Making nocino takes time and patience but it’s a pretty easy process to follow if you get the timing right.
Traditionally, green walnuts are harvested on St. Jean Baptiste day (June 24th). We were a bit late picking our green walnuts but I figure summer hits Austria a bit later than it does in southern Italy so it wasn’t much of a problem. Our recipe is by no means traditional, in fact it was a bit of a hit or miss experiment. That being said, we will definitely be making more this summer as it was a big hit.
After bottling, we let our nocino mature for about 6 months. The flavours had mellowed beautifully and with hints of cinnamon and cloves, nocino makes for delightful Christmas spirits!
- 21 green walnuts quartered and then halved (try to pick them on June 24th),
- 1 liter alcohol (we used 38% grain alcohol but you can use Everclear or vodka in a pinch),
- 2 cinnamon sticks,
- 9 whole cloves,
- 3 cardamom pods,
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg,
- 1 vanilla pod split lengthwise,
- zest of one lemon,
- simple syrup (2 cups sugar, 1 cup water).
1. Add the walnuts, lemon zest, cinnamon sticks and vanilla to your glass container. Top the ingredients with grain alcohol. We used a heritage hill style jar with rubber gaskets for a better seal.
2. Cover and let sit in the sunshine for about about 6 weeks. Every day or two, give the nocino a good circular sloshing or stir. The nocino will begin to darken turning a dark amber colour. After a few days, the nocino will become almost black.
3. After 6 weeks, it’s time to make the sweetener. We chose to use a simple syrup made of 2 parts sugar and 1 part water. Just boil the water and pour it over the sugar, stir gently until the sugar is fully dissolved and let cool at room temperature. Once fully cooled, store in the fridge until ready to use. It’s important to let the simple syrup cool completely before putting it in the fridge. Otherwise, if it cools too fast, the syrup might develop crystals.
4. Strain the nocino to remove the nuts and spices. Continue to strain the nocino with a fine mesh sieve to clear the liquid of any sediment. You might have to let the nocino sit for a few hours or overnight for the sediment to settle before straining again. You can try using a coffee filter to remove fine particles.
5. After removing the sediment, it’s time to add the sweetener to the nocino. Let the nocino sit in a cool dark place for another 6 weeks.
6. After 6 weeks, bottle the nocino and store in a cool dark place for at least 6 months allowing enough time for the flavours to develop.
7. By Christmas, the nocino should be ready to drink but the longer you age it, the better it should taste.