5.18.2019

Advance Planning

Today’s recipe is for something I made a year ago. It is a recipe so seasonal that you can make it only in June.

And it takes almost 6 months to finish. But the wait is worth your while

The recipe is for Nocino, a green walnut liqueur - actually a digestivo - from Italy. (The French also have a version - Liqueur de Noix.)

If you want to make this, now is the moment to source the ingredients. The key ingredient, green walnuts, seem to be available for what feels like thirty-seconds each year, so you’ll want to get to know your source in advance, and then get busy when a box shows up in the mail. (I list my source below...)

Making it in June has it ready in time for the holidays. You know, the winter holidays... that time of year when you overeat and need a little digestivo to get you through. A sip is also a delight on a long dark fireside evening.

This recipe came to me from my cugina Mary, who spends much of the year in Bologna., and the remainder in Oakland, California. When I last visited her in Oakland, she shared her home-made Nocino with me… as well as her recipe. It is delicious

You know my predilection for experiment. Next year at this time, I will try a different Nocino recipe, shared by our friends and neighbors Giuseppe and Annamaria. It’s his mother’s version.

Stay tuned!

~ David

Nocino, A Green Walnut Liqueur
This recipe is based on one given to me by my cousin Mary. 

30 green walnuts (see source info below)
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
10 cloves
zest of one lemon, in pieces
2 750ml bottles grappa (see note below)


Wash and quarter the walnuts. Places them in a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

Add the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and cinnamon. Pour in the grappa, and stir.

Cover and let sit for 40 days, shaking the container every once in a while. Don’t be alarmed – the contents will start turning brown (a walnut brown, naturally) – very quickly.

After the 40 days, strain through a fine-meshed sieve that is lined with cheesecloth into bottles. Seal the bottles, and let age in a dark, cool place for at least 3 months, preferably longer, before serving.

Makes 2 750ml bottles.

Source: I got my walnuts from Haag Farm in California. This isn’t an endorsement or advertisement, simply information. The quality was excellent

Note: Mary does not like using grain alcohol or even vodka to make Nocino. She reported that the Italians she knows use grape alcohol, which is not easily available in the U.S. Based on this information, I opted for grappa, and it worked beautifully.





33 comments:

  1. I don't think I've ever seen green walnuts in Sydney, although I could be looking in the wrong places or walking around with blinkers on. The colour of the liqueur is amazing! I wouldn't have imagined it'd turn such a dark colour from green walnuts!

    I have experimented with this process myself. I took the "sloe gin" method (similar to yours) and did two separate batches - one with finger lime pulp and the other with Davidson's plums. They sat for many months and the result is divine. Especially the finger lime one. It's very similar to limoncello!

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    1. I can't imagine that you couldn't source them from some part of Australia in an online search. What amazed me, John, is how quickly the liquid turned brown!

      Ooh, I would love to taste the finger lime liqueur! It's a shame those are hard to source here!

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    2. Found this for you, John: http://wellwood.com.au/green-walnuts-500g-australia-only/

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  2. Hmm: Reading down the column I was inevitably thinking of just saying 'how fascinating', until I read the comment above . . . have to think about that as I can certainly access finger limes and Davidson's plums :) ! You did achieve a beautiful colour tho' . . . !

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    1. I always find a solution, Eha - whether finger limes, Davidson's plums, or an online search! I can't imagine someone in Australia isn't selling green walnuts!

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    2. I knew someone in Oz would have them~ http://wellwood.com.au/green-walnuts-500g-australia-only/

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  3. Gorgeous photos. I was all ready to go out and buy the walnuts after your instagram post and our conversation but I do think I should try this first. So I've found a local source of a commercial nocino that I hope will treat it fairly :)

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    1. Good idea to test first, Inger! That said, every one will be just a wee bit different...

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  4. Absolutely amazing David ! If anybody has green walnuts at hand, making this beauty is highly recommended ! Thank you and enjoy the day !!!!

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    1. Thanks, Davorka - and double thanks for the recommendation to my readers!

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  5. I am going to ask my farmers at the market if there are some green walnuts. I love digestive bitters and drink them all the time.

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    1. Gerlinde - you are in a great region for finding the nuts. Good luck - and let me know!

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  6. Its for stuff like this I keep a spare pair of socks handy when I peruse your offerings, in case the first set gets knocked off.

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  7. sounds like a brilliant recipe david. not sure how easy it is to get green walnuts here tho:) cheers sherry

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    1. Now my third comment to folks in OZ, I thought I would look online and see what I could find... and I found this for you! http://wellwood.com.au/green-walnuts-500g-australia-only/

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  8. Such patience, you have David. Well, I'm not sure if I can find the green walnuts here and I searched our government liquor monopoly for Nocino and Liqueur de Noix, but no luck. I guess I'll just have to add this to flavors I must taste when in Italy.

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    1. The patience, Ron, comes from not drinking it too quickly so you can make it to the next batch! So, this year, we are making two batches using the two recipes - this one and the one I mention above. Should keep us until Thanksgiving next year!

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  9. Hmmmm....I am going to facebook my son's friend in Shoreline, WA to see if he knows about any green walnuts. I know my hubby's family had a walnut tree in southern OR, but no family live there now. It's a timely idea to learn how to make stuff now, considering that in the near future there may not be a way to easily buy stuff anymore. Just sayin' You know, just as our grandmothers and aunts used to do? CANNING ruled the summer back then.

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    1. It's nice to hear from you, Cathy! I hope you find the walnuts. You are so right - special things are getting harder and harder to find although, even without those issues, I still like to make things in my own kitchen.

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  10. Well I'm totally intrigued and love experiments like this. I think I will give it a go. So interesting. I love that you had the patience to wait to post it. ~Valentina

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    1. For a while, Valentina, I posted things out of season... then realized, "I don't plan on stopping the blog, so why not just post into the future?!" So I have posts sprinkled here and there throughout the next year so that they are seasonally timely. I hope you like it - I will check back in December!!

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  11. I've had Liqueur de Noix but didn't even know about Nocino. But anything with grappa as a base has to be good! I don't usually make my own liqueurs, but am always tempted by the idea. This sounds terrific -- thanks.

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    1. I generally am tempted to make liqueurs that were generally made at home - digestivi, etc. My one foray outside that realm is my home-infused gin. Just a fancy vodka, but I like making it with different flavors and it really is quite good.

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  12. David, I love your "predilection for experimentation!" And this is no exception. Wow. What fun! This is something my mother would have jumped right on. Can't wait to see the next version.

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    1. The next version is “cooking“ right now, Jean! I can’t wait for it either…

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  13. Do you know I have actually tried this in Italy, it was made by the people we were staying with! I know how delicious it is but I hadn't thought about trying to make my own, great idea!

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    1. Caroline, I wonder if this is even available in a commercial version!? I’ve only had it homemade in Italy and in the United States.

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  14. I tried Nocino a few years ago at an agriturismo where they'd made it themselves, too! It was so good! Good for you making it in Arizona!

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    1. I have two completely different batches going right now, Christina! When is the same recipe as last year, and the other is a brand new recipe that is very different for this year! Can’t wait to share that one, as well.

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