The Nocino is finally finished and ready for drinking!! Although I will have to wait until this baby joins our family to fully enjoy a glass, I did take a sip and it’s pretty tasty!!
I’m still so amazed when I think about the first time someone decides that they will try a new food or drink. For example, some person was just looking at a bunch of green walnuts hanging on a tree and thought, “Hmmm, wonder what it would taste like if I cut those up, put them in a jar and covered them with booze and stuck them in a dark closet/cellar for a month and a half?” He/She made it that far and realized that they needed to add some sugar and some flavor because MY GOODNESS at that stage the booze tasted more like tannic cleaning product then something delicious to sip on. So they added some simple syrup, a bit of cinnamon and put it back in the root cellar for ANOTHER month and a half.
Apparently this person had lots of other booze on hand if they could wait a whole three months for the results of this bottle of Nocino!!
But I guess that’s how all the new food and drinks come about in our lives, by someone daring enough to taste it, grow it, make it, etc. Nocino is no different. When I first read about this drink I knew I had to make it. I mean, not having traveled to Italy where it’s the thing that every family makes – I had never even heard of it, much less tasted it. So off I went, collecting some green walnuts from my parents tree, chopping them and filling up a large jar with the walnuts, a bit of lemon zest and a whole bunch of vodka. The jar goes into a dark closet (or my pantry) and off it goes to do whatever magic it’s supposed to do.The sitting and waiting part is actually pretty fascinating. Even though I was supposed to leave the door closed and the Nocino alone, I go in and out of my pantry pretty often, grabbing things for dinner and whatnot…so I would always peek at the jar, excited to see what changes were happening in the dark and when no one was looking.
Within two days of green walnuts meeting the vodka, there was a layer of cloudy black liquid at the top of the jar. The rest of the jar was clear, like the vodka I poured into the jar. About a week later, the jar was halfway black and by the end of the month, the entire jar was filled with black liquid. I picked it up and shook it up, dispersing the black liquid throughout the entire jar and revealing that those pristine green walnuts you see above, had started to fade and take on part of the black coloring in their crevices, making them look more like tiny brains then walnuts. It was both creepy and fascinating to watch.
Then nothing else really happened for the three months that I left the jar alone. When the time limit was up, the walnuts were strained from the liquid and a quick cinnamon simple syrup was made and added to the black liquid. Back into it’s dark house the Nocino went, to do whatever Nocino things it needed to do, and THEN….another three months later…Ta-dah! Nocino is ready, time to drink.The Nocino is different then I thought it would be – light on the palate, with a floral/cinnamon/spice-y flavor. It’s a sipping liquor, don’t get me wrong, but it’s definitely easy to drink. Or mine is anyways. As I have never tried it before, who knows if I even made it correctly, haha! But it’s tasty and I can’t wait to share it with everyone over the holidays. It makes a great gift or after Christmas dinner drink, it would even make a great Halloween drink as it’s black in color and fits the creepy holiday theme just right.
Still wondering what made that first person try this combination, but so happy that they did. Give it a go when you see some green walnuts on the tree, you won’t be disappointed!
recipe from Imbibe Magazine
16 green walnuts, quartered
zest of one lemon
750mL bottle of vodka
Place the walnuts and the lemon zest in a clean, sealable glass jar. Cover with the vodka. Steep for at least 40 days in a cool, dark place.
After 40 days, combine 1/2 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cinnamon stick in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. Cool and remove and discard the cinnamon stick.
Strain the walnuts and lemon peel out of the vodka and discard. Combine the vodka with the cinnamon-flavored syrup. Let rest for 40 more days.
After 40 days, strain through a chinois into a clean glass bottle. Serve at room temperature.
my notes: Green walnuts can be purchased online or from local farmers or grocers while in season (June through August, here in California.)