Our homestead is blessed with a number of black walnut trees, from which we make cutting boards for our Etsy shop, dye fibers, make syrup, make ink, and eat the mature nut meat. Last year we added another black walnut product to our growing list – a black walnut liqueur (also known as nocino). Made from the immature, green walnuts, nocino has a dark, nutty flavor that is perfect for sipping, or gifting.
According to the book Preserving Wild Foods by Matthew Weingarten and Raquel Pelzel, green walnuts are traditionally harvested on June 24th, to be enjoyed six months later as a Christmastime ritual. With that date right around the corner, let me share with you the process by which we made our first batch of nocino last year.
We did indeed harvest the green walnuts on June 24th, but you may need to adjust the date for your location and climate. Simply look for walnuts that are about the size of a small lemon. You will want about 25 walnuts.
Slice the walnuts into quarters.
We loosely followed the recipe in Preserving Wild Foods, which calls for the addition of lemon rind, cinnamon sticks, and star anise, but you could also omit the spices for a more pure black walnut flavor. To make your own nocino:
Place approximately 25 green walnuts in a half-gallon mason jar
Add 1 cinnamon stick
a few star anise pieces
the zest of one lemon, peeled into large strips
Cover the ingredients with vodka (we used about 3 cups of vodka), place a lid on, and shake. Then set the jar in your pantry, or another cool place to steep.
After two or three months, strain the contents and add a sugar syrup, made by dissolving 1-2 cups of sugar in 1/2 to 1 cup of water. (Adjust the proportions to make a stronger or sweeter end result.)
Place the resulting liqueur into a jar or bottle, again covering and storing in a cool place for another 3-4 months.
It’s hard to describe this unique dark, sweet, slightly nutty flavor. It’s lovely sipped, it’s very nice mixed in cold milk, and a friend of ours crafted a new nocino-inspired cocktail. Cheers!