Thursday, July 16, 2009

Green walnuts, warm brown cloves

When I was in college, my Grandpa taught me how to make Blackberry Bounce, a strong and sweet blackberry liqueur. I was impressed at how easy it is to make an alcoholic infusion. The hardest part was picking the berries! We started a tradition of late August berry picking and infusing. I have fallen out of practice in recent years, but with my renewed love of bottling, preserving, pickling and such, I think I will be pushing my way through his blackberry bushes again this year.

Mix, a Portland food/beverage magazine, had a story this summer about Nocino (or Nocello), the Italian walnut liqueur. (http://www.oregonlive.com/mix/index.ssf/2009/05/nocino_liqueur_makes_a_perfect_summertime_backyard_party.html#article-top) The article described this happy group of friends who gather every summer for an outdoor meal and Nocino-making party. The hosts seemed so gracious and fun - and I immediately wished I could be on their invitation list – or at least knew someone with a walnut tree.



A month or so later, my friend Ben had a dinner. He is a skilled distiller, brewer, and vintner. (And he makes a mean pesto.) We sampled some of his homemade beverages, including Nocino/Nocello with dessert. I remarked on my desire to make it myself. Not only did Ben supply me with a bottle of Rosé he thought would work well in the mix, but he also led me outside to the big walnut tree in his yard. I now have a friend with a walnut tree - and I now have a jar of walnut liqueur infusing in my dining room.




Nocino/Nocello/Italian Walnut Liqueur

30 green walnuts, quartered
1 liter grain alcohol
1 liter white or Rosé wine
2 lb. Sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
30 cloves
Peel from one lemon

Combine in gallon jar. Shake regularly for 60 days. It does not need to be someplace cool; in fact, some people put it on their back porch in direct sunlight. Let sit and enjoy in approximately 18 months (i.e. next Christmas). I'm wondering if I can cheat on this time commitment... Strain and bottle.

Note: The walnuts will temporarily stain your fingers. Wear gloves if you are concerned about this side effect. They also stained by cutting board, but I'm going to chalk it up to battle scars.

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