Nocino Walnut Liqueur

There is a chill in the air and the green walnuts have fallen late this year. For me, both signal a time to make one of my most favorite Italian treats- Nocino.

Nocino is a luscious and sweet dessert wine made from green {unripe} walnuts steeped in grain alcohol, then mixed with a hearty red wine with sugar and spices. Originally from the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy, Nocino is traditionally enjoyed with friends and family around the table at the Christmas holiday.

I am lucky to have a huge, old walnut tree right in my back yard. The branches are too tall to reach, even with a supersize ladder {an engine ladder, perhaps}, so I have wait until they decide to fall. I know they have dropped when I see the squirrels balancing themselves on the fence with the walnuts hanging from their mouths, looking for a safe place to bury as their winter pantry stash. Typically, green walnuts are best picked in July, when their green shells are still soft and the flavor will yield less bitter drink. If you can't find green walnuts locally, they are prevelant in Northern California and, if you are lucky, maybe you know a friend who will send you a box! You can also order them online here.

Nocino is very easy to make, but takes time to steep and patience to let it rest so the flavors can marry and mellow into this delicious drink. I love to use the liqueur in baking to add a hint of flavor, like you would a port, or in cooking for deglazing the pan to make a rich, dark sauce. Veal Marsala or roasted pork are two of my favorite savory dishes to use this sweet dessert wine.

I am a little late in the year to make the liquor, but a bit more sugar and spice, and I am hopeful it will come out more than nice!

Here is the recipe, as featured in my cookbook, La Bella Vita :

{click on the image to enlarge}.

I have found that the drink is less bitter by letting the walnuts steep about 30-40 days before adding the wine, instead of 3 months as noted on the original recipe. I also like to add a split vanilla bean when adding the other spices for a more aromatic flavor.

Let's check back in around the holidays for more recipes and celebration.......

Buon appetito!
copyright 2008 Alisa Barry

1 comment:

uncharted said...

Hi Alisa. I was visiting Atlanta over the weekend and stopped in your shop. Lovely spot! I just made a post about it on my blog, so I thought I'd let you know! I bought one of the french magazine pages you had strung from the ceiling... the one with the geishas on it. Any ideas on what they are stringing from the tree?
I have a picture of it on my blog...