Kate from Oz
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travel. adventure. booze. maps. data.

Virgin Harvest Nocino

Last night, I had an interesting conversation with Sean Kenyon, proprietor and mastermind of Denver's Williams & Graham. I've been making limoncello and vanilla orangecello for a few years now, and have branched into bitters, aromatics, nocino, and vin de noix in recent months. I was curious if Sean made bitters, liqueurs, etc. for Williams & Graham, and I was surprised by his response. He said that he just didn't see the need to make those in-house if you can find great quality products made by others. I could understand that sentiment but then again, for us regular folks, I can't special order or source from Italy the quality of limoncello I can make with only a few hours of effort for the price it costs me. And I think nocino would be even more difficult.

Now onto my Virgin Harvest Nocino! The fact that it was harvested by a virgin was purely accidental. Amber, the amazing poet and DIYer (IG @burningseasonstudios), has walnut trees and had her tween son pick about 100 green walnuts for me. I had sent her a few links with info on nocino, and she saw that traditionally, barefoot Italian virgins would harvest the green walnuts on the feast of San Giovanni (and around the summer solstice - built on lots of pagan rituals). Logan isn't a young Italian virgin wanting to find a husband asap, but he is a virgin, and you can't be choosy in middle America! And this is important: you have to use green walnuts, as in walnuts that do not have the hard shell yet. In Kansas, the prime time to pick your green walnuts is in June! You might be able to check in early July, but I don't know what condition they will be in (I'll update this once I check in early July).

 
 

In the end, I settled on four different methods to make nocino, two different recipes, and two different bases. I had three primary reasons for my seven different versions of nocino: 1) smaller jars are way cheaper than large glass jars, 2) I couldn't find a definitive Italian grandma recipe/method or even create a method that was close to the majority of the others, and 3) I'm just curious as to how all the various methods will compare to one another.

NB: WEAR GLOVES WHEN CUTTING AND HANDLING THE CUT WALNUTS! The juice of the green walnuts will stain your skin and anything not metal or plastic like you can't even image. Make sure to shake your jars at least once a week if not every few days. 


Here is my primary recipe: 
33 green walnuts (cut into eighths)
1 L Everclear
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1 vanilla bean
12 coffee beans
2 Allspice berries
Zest of one organic or unwaxed lemon
1.25 c sugar + 51 oz water to make a simple syrup

My second recipe: 
33 green walnuts (cut into eighths)
1 L Everclear
1/2 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 whole nutmeg, grated on the outside
1 Star Anise (pull out after a few weeks)
10 peppercorns
Zest of one organic or unwaxed orange
1.25 c sugar + 51 oz water to make a simple syrup

* I did two with Ancient Age bourbon instead of Everclear, and only adding about 10 oz water instead of 51 oz. 


Now the methods: 

Method 1:
Step 1: Combine walnuts and booze in glass container, sit outside in the sunny garden for 21 days
Step 2: Strain out the walnuts
Step 3: Add the rest of the spices, and the room temperature simple syrup
Step 4: Sit jar back outside in the sunny garden for 21 days
Step 5: Strain out spices
Step 6: Bottle into smaller bottles if you prefer, and store your nocino in a cool, dark place

Method 2:
Step 1: Combine walnuts and 3 cups sugar in glass container, sit outside in the garden for 3 days in the sun
Step 2: Add the rest of the spices and booze to the jar, and store the jar for 60 days in a sunny location inside your house
Step 3: Strain out the walnuts and spices, and add the water
Step 4: Rest the jar in a cool, dark place for for 60 days
Step 5: Bottle into smaller bottles if you prefer, and store your nocino in a cool, dark place

Method 3:  
Step 1: Combine walnuts, spices, and booze in glass container, place in a cool, dark location for 4 months
Step 2: Strain out the walnuts and spices
Step 3: Add the room temperature simple syrup
Step 4: Rest the jar for 1 week minimum in a cool, dark location
Step 5: Bottle into smaller bottles if you prefer, and store your nocino in a cool, dark place

Method 4:
Step 1: Combine walnuts, spices, and booze in glass container, place in a warm, dark place for 40 days
Step 2: Strain out the walnuts and spices
Step 3: Add the room temperature simple syrup
Step 4: Rest jar in a cool, dark location for 40-60 days
Step 5: Bottle into smaller bottles if you prefer, and store your nocino in a cool, dark place


With my primary recipe, I have a jar to test each of the four methods. For the second recipe, I have a jar for method 3, and a bourbon-based version testing method 3 and method 4. 

Traditionally, you are supposed to wait until November 3rd to enjoy your nocino but I'll let you decide on that!

If you can't find a walnut tree to pick your green walnuts or at your local farmers market, here are a few places you can order the needed green walnuts: Local Harvest, Haag Farm, Corky's Nuts, and Mount Lassen Farms.

All my spices are from Wichita's Spice Merchant! If you haven't been, or are ever in Wichita Kansas, this and Nifty Nut House should be mandatory visits!

Nocino is a great gift especially with it being ready right before the holidays get into full swing. By far the best place you can buy bottles for your nocino is specialtybottle.com's Italian-made swing top bottles.

[I don't get anything, not even recognition, for recommending the above shops and products. These are just what I have found that I love and best value.]