Nocino, Walnut Liqueur

Nocino: What You'll Need

Nocino: What You’ll Need

This is something Italians make in June while the walnuts are still green, to celebrate San Giovanni, whose Saint’s day falls upon June 24. If you have access to a walnut tree, good.

Otherwise, ask your greengrocer to procure about 30 nuts with their rinds. Don’t be surprised if the rinds are bright green; they should be, because the nuts are immature. Once you have the nuts, wash them well and assemble the following ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 quarts (1 1/2 liters) grain alcohol (190 proof or 95%; see note)
  • 1 2/3 pounds (a little more than 3 cups, or 750 g) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 10 cloves
  • l pint (1/2 liter) water
  • The rind of an organically grown lemon, cut into strips

Begin by quartering the nuts with a heavy-bladed knife or a cleaver. Do this on a non-absorbent surface, and wear gloves: though walnut juice is colorless when it comes out of the nut, exposure to the air quickly turns it into dark brown walnut stain that will not come off. Put the nuts with the remaining ingredients in a jar, cover it tightly, and put it in a warm, dark place for 40 days, shaking it every two or three days.

Once the nuts have steeped taste the nocino. If it’s too strong for you dilute it with some spring water. Then line a funnel with filter paper and strain the nocino into bottles. Cork them, and age it for about six months in a cool dark place. It is wonderful sipped in small amounts from a tiny glass at the end of a meal, or around a fire with friends. It also makes a perfect Christmas gift.

This recipe relies on Pellegrino Artusi for the proportions of the ingredients, and it comes out strong:

Nocino: Chopped Walnuts

Nocino: Chopped Walnuts

About 70% alcohol, or 140 proof. It is something to be sipped in small amounts, from a tiny glass after dinner, and this is how I enjoy it.

Do not treat it as if it were a normal distillate, because it’s not, and do not use it to make mixed drinks, because they will come out too strong.

Dick Garofalo, of Garofalo Artisan Liqueurs, kindly gives proportions for making a lower-strength Nocino:

  • “If you want a Nocino in the 60 proof (30% alcohol) range your formula will be 2 1/2 cups 190 Proof (95%) alcohol to 5 1/2 cups of water.”
  • “For 70 proof (35% alcohol) the ratio is 3 cups 190 proof (95%) alcohol to 5 cups of water.”

Dick’s note set me to looking on the web; it turns out Artusi’s proportions are those used in Modena, where Nocino is the signature liqueur, and there is also the Ordine del Nocino Modenese, whose site gives the “official” recipe (which has no water added; the alcohol draws water from the walnuts) and a number of family variations (links are in Italian). And, of course, there is more on the web; the Cotti family dedicates a page of their company site to Nocino (in Italian, alas) with Artusi’s proportions as Nocino Modenese, and a number of other variations as well, some of which start with grappa, which is generally 40-45% alcohol (80-90 proof) and will thus yield a weaker nocino.


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Categories: Recipes from Emilia Romagna, Cucina Emiliana e Romagnola, Syrups Drinks and More

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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