- 2 pounds green walnuts (approximately 30 count)
- 750 milliliters of 80-proof vodka
- 3 cups sugar
- Zest of 1 orange, removed in large strips with a vegetable peeler
- 5 cloves
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- Optional: 1 heaping teaspoon whole dark-roast coffee beans
About this recipe
One of the joys of an orchard is being able to harvest leaves, flowers and fruits, in various stages of development, to flavor cordials and liqueurs. This year we’ve made vin de peche, a Provencal aperitif infused with young peach leaves; umeshi, a sweet cordial from Japan that uses unripe plums; and nocino, a green walnut digestif.
To make nocino, undeveloped walnuts are traditionally collected in Italy just after the summer solstice, specifically on June 24 and 25, when they’re still smooth, small and not yet hard, to make this spicy liqueur. Like the other liqueurs, nocino is easy to make, but you must wait patiently while allowing it to steep and, once bottled, give it time to improve with age.
Once ready, we like to sip it after dinner, or use it to flavor desserts— it’s delicious poured over vanilla ice cream. This is also a great holiday gift for friends and family. Enjoy!
Quarter the walnuts and place in a 1-gallon wide-mouthed glass jar. Add the remaining ingredients and stir. Don’t worry that the sugar won’t dissolve right away. Cover the jar, and let it steep for 40–60 days. Once every few days, agitate the jar to encourage extraction. You can taste the liqueur and add additional aromatics at any point if you like.
When ready, strain the contents of the jar through cheesecloth or a coffee filter, and pour the liqueur into a clean bottle. Store in a cool, dark place for several months—it will be ready to enjoy just in time for holiday celebrations. The liqueur will keep indefinitely without refrigeration.