How to Make Nocino: An Italian Walnut Liqueur

What You'll Need

Equipment
  • Rubber gloves for cutting up the green walnuts, to avoid black staining on hands and nails
  • A wide-mouth jar with a good sealing lid. We used the Fido 3 Liter jar, but Le Parfait or even a Ball 1/2 gallon would work for this.
  • A fine cheesecloth or jelly bag
  • Bottles to store the finished Nocino in
Ingredients
  • 30 green walnuts
  • 1 quart (or more, depending on jar size) vodka, grappa, aquavit, or other white spirit
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1 pound sugar

Directions

how to make nocino

 

1) Harvest the Young Walnuts

Gather the green walnuts directly from a tree; you won’t find them for sale. You’ll want to be sure that the tree has not been sprayed with anything you would not like to drink.

The walnuts should be on the small size, about the size of a golf ball, or even smaller. (The nut and it’s characteristic hard shell are still forming within the green outer shell that you see on the tree.) While the size and timing varies according to climate, a good general rule is that a sharp knife or a knitting needle can pass easily through the whole nut. If you encounter a hard shell forming inside the nut, it’s too old to use for Nocino.

2) Prepare the Walnuts

Don your rubber gloves now. Wash and quarter the green walnuts. A fine sap seeps from the cut pieces, and you can see the convoluted nutmeat beginning to form, still white and green. While the sap is translucent, it will quickly turn black and stain the skin without the protection of gloves.

Breathe deep, though. The smell that comes from the cut walnuts is surprisingly crisp and piney, very un-walnut, and it gives a hint of the flavor that will eventually develop in the mature Nocino.

3) Pack All Ingredients Except Sugar in Your Jar

Place the quartered nuts in the jar, along with the cloves, lemon peel, and cinnamon. Pour the spirit over them until the nuts are covered with the alcohol. 

Shake the jar, and watch the color begin to change before your eyes. At first, it is a fine, bright green color, but as the days pass it will darken, becoming first dark green, then olive, all the way to deepest black by the end of 2 months. 

4) Let Mature for 4 Weeks, Shaking Everyday

Place the jar in a warm spot, and shake it every day to incorporate any sediment that might form on the bottom of the jar. Several recipes that we consulted for this recommended keeping the jar in a sunny window, a somewhat unusual, but apparently traditional step.

5) Add Sugar and Continue Maturing

After 4 weeks, the liquid should be very dark, even black. Open the jar and add the sugar. Shake it well to dissolve the sugar, then close it back up and allow it to infuse for 2 more weeks. You may wish to decrease the amount of sugar to suit your taste. 

homemade nocino

6) Mature for 2 More Weeks then Strain

Continue to shake the jar daily for 2 more weeks, or until the sugar has completely dissolved. Using cheesecloth or a jelly bag, strain the walnut mixture from the spirit.
bottling nocino

7) Bottle

A funnel is helpful for decanting the liquid into sealed glass bottles. Nocino may be stored unrefrigerated, out of the sun now, for several years. The flavor improves with age, so let it rest for a couple months, if you can, before enjoying it.

homemade walnut liquor

Over to You

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