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Jim Dixon

Nocino (Green Walnut Liqueur) & Vin de Noix

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So many nocino questions, so little time...

To all of you nocino makers, I have some questions, as my walnuts are due to arrive in the next few days:

1. Does it have to be made in a glass jar?

2. Is it best when made in a glass jar?

3. Should the jar be sealed?

4. Why do so many recipes call for lemon or lemon peel?

5. To anyone who has used maple syrup as the sweetener, how did it taste?

I met with Giorgio of Monteverdi Spirits when I was in Napa a few months ago. He said (and this is backed up by an article about him from a few years ago: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...type=printable) that he steeps the walnuts in a 40% alcohol solution of grape brandy (or, as he called it, "aqua vitae") and water by themselves for about 2 months, and then after the walnuts are removed, the spices and sugar are added.

Has anyone tried making it this way? Any suggestions? HELP!!!

-vm


Edited by vonmoishe (log)

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So many nocino questions, so little time...

To all of you nocino makers, I have some questions, as my walnuts are due to arrive in the next few days:

1.  Does it have to be made in a glass jar? 

2.  Is it best when made in a glass jar?

3.  Should the jar be sealed?

4.  Why do so many recipes call for lemon or lemon peel?

5.  To anyone who has used maple syrup as the sweetener, how did it taste?

I met with Giorgio of Monteverdi Spirits when I was in Napa a few months ago.  He said (and this is backed up by an article about him from a few years ago: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...type=printable) that he steeps the walnuts in a 40% alcohol solution of grape brandy (or, as he called it, "aqua vitae") and water by themselves for about 2 months, and then after the walnuts are removed, the spices and sugar are added.

Has anyone tried making it this way?  Any suggestions?  HELP!!!

-vm

it probably doesn't have to be made in a glass jar and if you do that glass, because its porous, will forever hold the flavor so you probably won't want to use it for anything else. the walnuts are also likely to stain anything else horribly.

the jar should be sealed because you want to prevent oxidation. so its good to use a jar that is not too large but don't stress about it.

the walnut flavor is intensely dark so lemon and lime just add contrasting flavor depth. the botanicals are best enjoyed by people that like to drink their nocino solo.

anise is a contrast with awesome affinity but it should be nearly subliminal. add a star anise pod one at a time to slowly get to a barely recognizable level. a random cocktail can often wake it up and make the faint botanicals explode in your drink.

to see a clearer expression of your walnuts i'd only work with white sugar as a sweatener. many liqueurs use 260 to nearly 400 grams of sugar per liter. i'd start with 260 grams and add more if needed depending on how bitter the walnuts are. 260 grams takes up like 150 or so milli liters so add it to 850ml of your walnut infused spirit. (patiently stir it to dissolve it)

a 40% alcohol spirit should probably be sufficient. i'd probably use clear rum like cruzan or matusalem because its affordable. what giorgio used may have been something grappa-esque which may be awesome but very expensive. in boston you can affordably buy stock's grappa julia for $25/l or portugeuse government grappa made for port wine production for $12/750ml. grappa would just add extra contrast that definitely isn't for everyone.

in parts of italy they often use ever clear for rustic liqueurs but the super high proof is often overkill and extracts more of a botanicals than you may want. but with walnuts you probably want a complete infusion rather than partial infusion so you get all the bitter components. this means you can never infuse them too long.

i would follow giorgio's lead and add all your sugar and spices after your walnuts are done steeping.

one thing we are missing is how many grams of walnuts to infuse in every liter of spirit which will determine the intensity of flavor. i've seen recommendations for 500g/liter of walnuts which seems reasonable.

good luck.

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In the FWIW category, I originally used a formula of 25 walnuts to 1 quart of vodka. This went into a glass container with some lemon zest, sugar (2 cups per quart of vodka), and some spices. That sat out in the sun with the lid loosely on the container for a month or 6 weeks. During that time, the jar was topped up with 1:1 simple syrup as necessary. This produced excellent results when I first tried it in 2004 and in 2005. In 2006, I did not add sugar to the initial soak instead waiting until the infusion was complete. This did not give very good results. It may have had nothing to do with with the timing of the sugar addition - I started using a different walnut source at that point. But this year, the sugar is going into the mix with the walnuts. I guess I'll see what happens.

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I ended up using 1 liter everclear (190 proof), 1.375 liters water, and 625 g walnuts in each jar. This was closest to Giorgio's recommendation of 11 pounds of walnuts to 5 gallons of 40% alcohol solution. I'll let it steep for 2 months, then I'll remove the walnuts and add the sugar and spices with some water, to reduce it to a 30% alcohol solution (also Giorgio's advice). Does this sound like it'll work? I'm not sure that my ratio of everclear:water:walnuts was close to everyone's recommendation.

-vm

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I'm getting my green walnuts and Wednesday and this year, I will be making Nocino instead of Vin de Noir. Can't wait!

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Getting together my supplies to head up north for 5 weeks. The idea is that while I'm there the walnuts should approach the right size for making nocino and vin de noix.

So I have the Crystal Clear 95% grain alcohol for the nocino, I'll pick up some drinkable red at the liquor store there for the vin de noix - however for the spirit addition to the vin de noix I was kind of hoping I could use up some of the stuff that resides in my liquor cupboard. I have probably 400 ml of marc de champagne - but I also have about 750 ml of Old Grandad Bourbon that I inherited from someone's collection. Would bourbon be too distinctive added to vin de noix?

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Can anyone weigh in on these two questions regarding nocino?

1. Is it better to expose the nocino to the air while steeping the walnuts, or should it stay in an airtight container?

2. Is it better to expose the nocino to the sun while steeping the walnuts, or should it stay in the dark?


Edited by vonmoishe (log)

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Can anyone weigh in on these two questions regarding nocino?

1.  Is it better to expose the nocino to the air while steeping the walnuts, or should it stay in an airtight container?

2.  Is it better to expose the nocino to the sun while steeping the walnuts, or should it stay in the dark?

After reading through this entire thread I came to the conclusion that a little air is good and the sun is not necessarily better than the dark.

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Can anyone weigh in on these two questions regarding nocino?

1.  Is it better to expose the nocino to the air while steeping the walnuts, or should it stay in an airtight container?

2.  Is it better to expose the nocino to the sun while steeping the walnuts, or should it stay in the dark?

I don't really know the answers to these questions, but I've based my process on what I believe to be more or less traditional. That means a container that's not airtight and macerating the walnuts in the sun. I have nothing to back this up other than a couple of really good batches of nocino. I think getting the walnuts well-extracted is important, so the sun might help that out (more heat, more extraction).

That's all complete speculation, though. I know you can come up with good stuff by putting a non-sealed container out in the sun, but I don't know that you can't come up with something just as good by using a sealed container and keeping it in the basement.

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After reading the green walnut threads on EGullet, including this one, I felt inspired to call around for some green walnuts. My CSA, bless 'em, came through and said they would provide a special order for me--organic green walnuts. I promised them a sample if the nocino comes out well. I've never made nocino before, so this is a new adventure for me. I plan on making David Lebovitz's recipe.

DL's recipe doesn't say anything about keeping the jar in light or dark, but you are supposed to agitate the container daily.

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I just finished putting up this year's batch. Perfect timing that my walnuts from Mt. Lassen Farms arrived on St. John's Day!

This year I did a few things differently - I used demerara sugar instead of white, and added the zest of 1/2 an orange and 1 star anise to each batch. Fingers crossed for the next 40 days.

gallery_24380_4394_32529.jpg

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Previous to the Mount Lassen walnuts arrival, I, fortunately, had the chance to taste through a bunch of the previous years' batches with some visiting friends.

Recently I've been straying a bit from the early batches, by including other fruit and/or spices.

Comparing them together, 2006 was the true stellar batch. With the bitterness faded, you could really taste the true walnut flavor. Completely basic recipe, too.

This years' models are returning to the tried and true.

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Up north here the walnuts are still quite small, but I collected about 30 little ones tonight and have just mixed up my first batch of nocino.

I used 1 litre of 190 proof Clear Spring grain alcohol, peel of about 1/3 of a lemon, a vanilla pod, a long balinese pepper, a chunk of saigon cinnamon and 5 allspice berries. Tomorrow I'll get a couple of leaves to add in as I forgot and if I can find some more small walnuts I think I'll add them in as well.

I'm going to keep it on the kitchen counter rather than out in the sun.

I'll wait to dilute and add the sugar after the extraction.


Edited by Kerry Beal (log)

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I just got some green walnuts at the civic center farmer's market in SF---hopefully not too late. They mostly had rather more developed shells under the green that I've seen in others' pictures. We'll see...

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Convinced someone else to go up a ladder for me yesterday (not only did I get the walnuts from his tree - but he fetched them for me too) and got enough walnuts to start my batch of vin de noix. I found a few others within reach of the ground while I wandered around the island yesterday. I'm properly raised so of course I asked everyone for permission to take the nuts off their trees. My reputation as a weirdo is safe!

The woman who works in the hospital kitchen brought me a huge pickle jar from home.

I used about 40 small walnuts, 500 ml of Old Grand Dad Bourbon that I inherited from my dad's lady friend (thinking it must be about 50 years old), about 2 1/2 litres of valpolicella, 500 ml maple syrup, zest of 1/2 a lemon and two nice thick slices of lemon, a vanilla bean, a big chunk of saigon cinnamon, a long balinese peppercorn, 8 cloves and 3 star anise.

I need to go back out and get some leaves to add - maybe tomorrow!

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I just got some green walnuts at the civic center farmer's market in SF---hopefully not too late. They mostly had rather more developed shells under the green that I've seen in others' pictures. We'll see...

FWIW, a friend of mine claims to have had pretty good luck making nocino with walnuts that have gotten a bit beyond the "stick a pin through them" stage. Hope it works for you.

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BTR, I thought my walnuts were a bit more mature than ideal. I'm just going to make sure I don't overextract, since the tannins in the older walnuts will make the final product bitter. Letting the nocino age will help reduce the tannins, also.

My recipe says to extract from 6-8 wks, before draining off the green walnuts. I'll definitely be checking at week 6, if not a little sooner.

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I just got some green walnuts at the civic center farmer's market in SF---hopefully not too late. They mostly had rather more developed shells under the green that I've seen in others' pictures. We'll see...

FWIW, a friend of mine claims to have had pretty good luck making nocino with walnuts that have gotten a bit beyond the "stick a pin through them" stage. Hope it works for you.

We have in the past used older nuts with no difference in quality in the finished products. The only qualifier, we have found, is time. Both Vin de Noix and Nocino have unbelievably long shelf life and if kept in a cool dark place will continue to mellow for years. Our 2004 batches are superb now.

BTR, I thought my walnuts were a bit more mature than ideal. I'm just going to make sure I don't overextract, since the tannins in the older walnuts will make the final product bitter. Letting the nocino age will help reduce the tannins, also.

My recipe says to extract from 6-8 wks, before draining off the green walnuts. I'll definitely be checking at week 6, if not a little sooner.

I'm not at all sure that more mature nuts would have more tannin. In fact, I think that the tannin might be stronger in the very green immature nuts. IMHO...

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I picked way too many green walnuts on Lummi Island this past Saturday and was wondering if anyone in the Seattle area would like a batch. They are in great shape, I think the trees mature slower up there than in Cali or in eastern Wash. Give me a holla and I'll hook you up! Hate to see them go to waste!


Edited by olivina (log)

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Last night I ran a quick quality control test (just a fancy way of saying that I'm getting anxious, and couldn't resist cracking open one of the jars for a taste). I still have eight days to go by the calendar, but it already tastes fantastic. Next week can't come soon enough!

gallery_24380_4394_30366.jpg


Edited by jmfangio (log)

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Strained and added my sugar syrup to the nocino today. I ended up with 800 grams of strained alcohol to which I added 800 grams of a mixture of 500 grams sugar and 600 grams of water.

Had a little taste - packs a wallop - but I can tell it's going to develop into something amazing!

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Bumping this up as my '09 Nocino was recently opened for the holidays. It came out very nicely, with rich walnut flavor and a smooth finish. A neighbor who was trying it for the first time immediately volunteered everything from her two walnut trees for next year's harvest. This is good - no more leaning out the back of a pickup truck over a slough trying to grab a few more nuts!

I also did my first ever head-to-head tasting with a commercial product. One of my Christmas presents was a bottle of "Nux Alpina" nocino from Destillerie Purkhardt in Austria. Last night, I popped it open and tasted it next to mine. The Austrian product was slightly less cloudy (filtered, no doubt) but the color of the two was identical. Nose and flavorwise, the Nux Alpina is quite spicy with plenty of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove in it. (The label mentions that they use botanicals in addition to spices.) It's smooth and sweet. Overall, a lovely drink that puts you in the holiday spirit with its spices. Mine is less oriented towards spice and more towards the walnut flavor. I add the typical spices along with some citrus peel and such but their flavors are more in the background than with the Austrian version. Overall, I like mine better. To me, the spices in the Nux Alpina make it more of a generic spiced liqueur. I think mine retains decent complexity while providing more of the walnut flavor that makes nocino unique. (Then again, I can't really claim to be objective about this, either!)

Anyone else crack a bottle of their nocino recently?

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Even as importer of the Nux Alpina with ready access to green walnuts, I'm all the more green from not making my own batch these past four years (perhaps knowing well the fate of my nuts in that green line at customs?). As noted above, the style of the Nux and indeed the region's walnut liqueur is more weighted towards the spices and botanicals, and this you'll find as well extending into certain parts of northern Italy. As its served digestif or with espresso, its perhaps unsurprising it has more in common with Amari/Bitter. Other walnut liqueurs we explored went even further down this path, and for those that love bitter and herbal it's well worth the venture. In the opposite direction, we did find some aged like fine Balsamic vinegar, though less useful in service. The making and sharing is a great tradition of nocino, in all its varieties in design, vagaries of production, and enjoyment in service.

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Thanks for that reply - I knew of the tradition of making walnut liqueurs, but I don't know much about the variety and how they're used in meals in Europe.

Gotta get myself to the Alps, I guess!

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Time for the annual Nocino thread bump!

This year, I'd already ordered my walnuts from Mt. Lassen Farms, then discovered a walnut tree just a few blocks from me. I left a note (along with my recipe) for the homeowners, and they were more than happy for me to come and take away as many as I like, before the squirrels get to them and make a mess all over their yard. So, now, I have 25 freakin' pounds of green walnuts. I'm making a couple of extra batches of Nocino, planning on Vin de Noix as well, and giving away as many as I can to friends so they can make their own, but does anyone know if I can freeze any leftover green walnuts, to use in a month or so when I'll have the space to put up another batch?

And, apparently, my cat found the walnuts very interesting.

34163_406717252273_557902273_4987415_5619410_n.jpg

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