I am not known as a patient person, but I’m working on it. One patience-building exercise for me this year was making nocino (a walnut-based liqueur) for Christmas: I had to start all the way back in June.
Back then, I was on the treadmill at my local gym when I heard a segment on KCRW’s Good Food program about making this wonderful drink. I had sipped this delicious liquer at restaurants before, but I had no clue how it was made. The Good Food segment talked about the basic process, which includes hunting down young green walnuts at local farmers markets. Further, tradition has it that this process MUST be started on the feast day of Saint Giovanni, June 24th. With only a few days to go, the hunt was on!!
I posted on Facebook that I was going to go hunting for green walnuts the coming weekend. Sure enough, someone who follows our blog, Holli DeLauro, commented that she too makes nocino. She shared her cousin-from-Naples Rosetta’s recipe, so I planned to follow it precisely. It came with a dire warning about not using gloves when handling the walnuts: without them, everything—including your hands—will turn black. I later found out from my mother-in-law that her family used to use green walnuts to repair scratches in dark furniture because of the chemicals they contain.
So I went bounding off to the nearby Farmers Market to get green walnuts! I did ask a nut vendor, Avila and Sons, and they said they could have them for me the following weekend. So I ordered up two dozen or so, and picked them up the as scheduled a week later.
With walnuts in hand, I started Cousin Rosetta’s nocino per the recipe below.
Cousin Rosetta’s Nocino
- 1 liter alcohol
- 24 green walnuts
- 7 gr (~ ½ T) cinnamon
- 15 cloves (chiodo di garofano)
- 300 gr (~1 ⅓ cups) sugar
- 350 gr (~ 1 ½ cups) water
- ON JUNE 24TH!!! Wash and quarter the green walnuts. Place in a big jar with the liter of alcohol. Keep in the dark for 40 days, gently shaking the jar every couple of days.
- After 40 days, filter. Add cinnamon, cloves, sugar, and water; soak for 2 days.
- After 2 days, filter. Let sit for 6 months before you enjoy.
Cutting the walnuts was not easy task. I wish I had used an old knife, as I chipped my good one. But I got it done. I used Ole Smoky Moonshine for the alcohol and that worked great. It only took three or four days for the alcohol to go from clear to completely black. Quite amazing!
As instructed, I filtered the mixture after 40 days. Here’s where I diverged a little: I added cinnamon sticks (I used two sticks per jar), cloves and made a simple syrup from the sugar and water and then added it. I also let the whole thing sit with the spices until Christmas. The final task of filtering again and putting it in decorative bottles closed the loop on this test of patience. And it was very satisfying!
And so now as Christmas approaches, Cousin Rosetta’s nocino is ready and it tastes wonderful. My biggest lesson for next year is simple – make more!!!