Nocino is a fabulous digestif, a traditional Italian bitter made from unripe walnuts (any type) that can be made into a lovely liqueur given the right treatment.
The articles I read before making last year’s batch suggested that it would be gone before the year of proper aging was complete and the authors were right. The first few tastes were much like Fernet Branca, but over time it mellowed nicely into something much more subtle and compelling.
Traditionally, the latest date to make Nocino is June 24. Thanks to a late winter in BC, we’re weeks behind, and in late June, the walnuts were still barely marble-sized. They’re nice and plump today however, and the shells have not yet begun to form, so it’s a perfect time to begin. From the look of the fruits there are still a few more days to go before it’s no longer possible.
This recipe will give wonderful results. You may not want to share. I didn’t. O:-)
Pour the spirits (vodka or brandy) over the walnuts in a canning jar.
Soak the green walnuts for up to 5 days, draining the water each day.
Boil the water and sugar into a simple syrup, add the nuts and continue to boil for 10 minutes or until soft.
Pour into a clean, sterilized canning jar
Cap with a lid that has been prepared as for jam, by boiling it for 5 minutes.
Set aside until September
Blending the liqueur
Strain the spirits off of the nuts into a new clean jar, through a coffee filter or clean white cloth.
Likewise, strain the syrup through a filter or cloth into a second jar.
Blend the two liquids to your personal taste.
Set the blended liqueur away for at least another month, ideally for as long as a year. The longer it ages, the mellower it will be and the more the walnut notes will mature.
Pour the remaining syrup back onto the walnuts. On their own, these are a Greek sweet called Glyko Karydaki.
Normally to make the Karydaki, the walnuts are soaked for a week and the water discarded each day until the last. I tend to think this is unnecessary effort, but try it if you prefer.
Nocino in Brandy
After the first extraction, you can use the nuts to make a second infusion with different qualities...the first is more raw and tannic, but also lower in alcohol, as it mingles with the moisture present in the fresh nuts. The second infusion is more alcoholic, but also more elegant.
Over time, each infusion will mellow to a nutty, lovely flavour. You can keep them separate to compare the differing qualities, or blend them as you prefer.