Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nocino - Italian Walnut Liqueur

This post is a bit different than all my previous, in that it doesn't deal with meat.   However, the mission of my blog is to "explore the fascinating world of cured meats, pickles,wine, and life in general on SE 20th in Portland, Oregon.. and guess what?  Nocino is now an embedded and much loved part of that life.

I learned how to make Nocino from my friend, Ann Hubatch of Helioterra Wines.

My first batch was last year and tasted fantastic.   I learned from the pros and now have a few different types going.    

A few things you need:   Walnuts ( see photo )

To make 1/2 gallon or so of Nocino:

30 green walnuts ( about the size of small limes )
Chop them up ( halved or quartered.. your preference.. I think quartering extracts more "walnut essence, but I could be full of crap )

Then place them in your 1 gallon container.

FYI... try and use a wide mouth container.   If you use a narrow mouthed container, like my friend Vincent, from Vincent Wine Company, you're going to have a hell of a time cleaning the walnuts out of the container in the fall, ( see his effort here - scroll down to botom . I suggest you sign up to follow his blog and see how he cleans those jars out in November :))

After you've chopped up and placed your nuts in the jar ( save the jokes.. I've already made them ), pour in one liter of vodka and/or everclear.   I personally use vodka, as the ones I've tasted with everclear can be a bit harsh, and Nocino is the sort of thing you drink when you've already drunk a few other things.. so if I can lessen the impact a bit, so be it.
After the hard stuff, add in one liter of white wine ( or red, rose, or a mix... it's YOUR nocino.. get creative )
I just happened to use whatever was at the top of the pile in the manfridge.. seufert woven white, leitner GV, and my fav summer white Aranciano Grillo.. a sardinian white ).

Now here's where you can get really creative.

standard recipe calls for 2.2lbs ( 1 Kilo ) of sugar,3-5 cinnamon sticks, and 40 cloves to be added.   After tasting all of the awesome Nocino's at Casa Hubatch this July, I decided to get crazy.  One common theme is less sugar this year.   All of the nocino's I tried that used the full kilo ( including mine ) were a bit too sweet, so I used less.

Batch 1.
30 Walnuts
1l vodka,  1l white wine
1lb sugar( white )
3 cinnamon sticks
40 ( or so... i'm not really counting them out ) cloves
1/3lb stumptown 'hairbender' whole coffee beans
5 whole cardamom seeds
10 whole allspice seeds
1 orange including peel (squeezed juice and used orange peel only )

Batch 2
30 walnuts
1l vodka,  1l white wine
1lb sugar
5 cinnamon sticks
40 cloves
1/3lb stumptown 'hairbender' whole beans
5 cardamom seeds

Batch 3
30 walnuts
1L vodka, 1L white wine
No sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
40 cloves
10 allspice seeds

Batch 4
30 walnuts
1l vodka,  1lwhite wine.
Nothing else added

So there you go.    Now the hard part.   Leave alone except for a light shake every week or two. 

Come back at the end of Oct, Middle November and bottle.

I'm secretly rooting for Batch #4, as one of the best ones I had last year was just "naked" nocino.. no spices.. and that one had all the taste of clove and cinnamon..

Stay tuned... This is going to be good.


  1. Looks great-I love infused booze. I've got my second batch of limoncello going in the basement. Can't wait to see the results, although I guess I'll have to...

  2. Great post on your nocino experiments. This being my first time, I only varied the sugar. We'll get more creative next time. Already I see the half sugar batch turning darker sooner. I'm guessing that more sugar acts as a perservative?

    Yes, I used narrow topped gallon jars. It's what I had. I'm hoping the quartered walnuts break down a bit. If not, I got them in there, I'll get them out. Somehow.

  3. I'll be looking forward to a tasting party this winter Vincent.

    And Yes... I"m sure you'll get those walnuts out.. but it will be entertaining to view the process, so please blog it and keep us in the loop :)