Our homestead is blessed with a number of mature black walnut trees, from which we make cutting boards for our Etsy shop, dye fibers, make syrup, make ink, and eat the nut meats. Last year we added another black walnut product to our growing list – a homemade 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. This black walnut liqueur recipe will teach you how to make your own!
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 make nocino.
The photo above shows the immature (green) black walnuts. 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.
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.
Homemade Black Walnut Liqueur Recipe
To begin making your homemade black walnut liqueur, slice approximately 25 green walnuts into quarters and place them in a half gallon or gallon sized mason jar.
Add 1 cinnamon stick and a few star anise pieces.
Add the zest of one lemon, peeled into large strips.
Cover the ingredients with vodka (we used about 3 cups of vodka – no need to purchase quality vodka, the cheap stuff will do just fine!), 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 (think Baileys and cream or Kahlua and milk), and a friend of ours creatively crafted a new nocino-inspired cocktail. Cheers!
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