The juice from the walnuts will permanently stain anything it touches, so I recommend that you wear gloves while cutting them. Wash down the cutting board as soon as you are done cutting the walnuts.
Some people are very sensitive to native black walnuts, so if you use black walnuts instead of English walnuts, be aware of any such allergies if serving to guests.
- 30 green English walnuts, early enough in the season so that they are easily cut with a knife
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 5 whole cloves
- 1-inch piece of vanilla bean
- Zest of one lemon, cut into strips using a vegetable peeler
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 liter vodka
Other recipes I've found use orange peel instead of lemon, use spices such as mace, or include grappa. The next time I make nocino I may try the orange peel and even add a little star anise.
1 Prepare the green walnuts: Rinse and pat dry the walnuts. Cut them into quarters with a sharp chef's knife or cleaver.
Be careful as you are cutting them; if you've waited too late in the season to pick them, their shells may have begun to harden and cutting through them may be a little dicey. Watch your fingers.
2 Put walnuts, spices, zest, sugar, and vodka into a large glass container. The vodka should cover the walnuts. Cover and shake to mix well.
3 Store for 6 weeks, shaking daily. As the days go by you will notice that the color of the nocino gets darker and darker.
4 Bottle the nocino: When you are ready to bottle, remove the walnuts and solids with a slotted metal spoon. (Be CAREFUL where you do this as the walnuts and the nocino will stain.)
Strain the liquid through several layers of cheesecloth into glass bottles. (I've seen recipes that call for straining the liquid through coffee filters which I think would work fine too.)
Cork tightly. According to David, nocino will last for several years if stored in a cool, dry place.
The nocino will initially be rather bitter, but it will mellow over time. It's best at least a year after it was first bottled.