Serves: Makes 9 (7- to 8-ounce) bottles of nocino
- 30 fresh green walnuts with soft shells (picked in late spring/early summer)
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle 151- or 190-proof grain alcohol, such as Everclear
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle inexpensive white wine, such as pinot grigio
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- Peel from 1 lemon (yellow part without the white pith)
- 40 whole cloves
- 3 (3-inch-long) cinnamon sticks
Procedures:You don’t need a walnut tree in your backyard or your neighbor’s to make nocino. Who knew, but you can even order green walnuts online, in season (www.localharvest.org). This Italian liqueur, made from unripe walnuts, is traditionally started in late June, when the walnut shells are still green and soft, like little limes. For 5 months the green walnuts, along with whole spices, lemon peel, and sugar, soak in a bath of grain alcohol and white wine. By the holiday season, the liquid has turned a deep, rich brown and is ready for bottling—just in time for gift giving.
- Wash a 1-gallon glass jar and lid in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, run the jar and lid through the regular cycle of your dishwasher.
- Scrub the walnuts in warm water and pat dry. Quarter the walnuts and place them in the prepared jar. Add the alcohol, wine, sugar, lemon peel, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. Cover the jar and tightly secure the lid. Set the jar in front of a window to steep in sunlight for about 5 months. Shake the jar once a week. Over time, the liquid will turn deep, dark brown in color.
- To bottle, first wash the bottles in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, run the bottles through the regular cycle of your dishwasher.
- Set a colander over a large bowl and strain the liquid to remove the walnuts, peels, and whole spices. Discard the solids. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large pitcher and strain the liquid to remove the large bits of sediment. Rinse and dry the strainer and the bowl.
- Line the strainer with a coffee filter and set it over the bowl. Strain the liquid through the filter, removing yet more sediment. Pour the nocino from the bowl back into the large pitcher.
- Using a funnel lined with a clean coffee filter, pour the nocino into the prepared bottles, leaving ½-inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean, secure the lids, and label. Storing: Store the bottles in a cool, dark place. Nocino will keep for several years.