Nocino: Italian Walnut Liqueur

Have you ever tried making liqueurs at home? It's easy, they're generally better than what can be bought in a store, and spring is an important time: when walnuts are green, they provide an excellent base for the home enthusiast. If you have access to a tree, good. Otherwise, ask your greengrocer to procure about 30 nuts with their rinds (they should be bright green). Once you have the nuts, wash them well and assemble the remaining ingredients:

Begin by quartering the nuts with a heavy bladed knife or a cleaver. Do this on a non-absorbent surface, and wear gloves: Though walnut juice is colorless when it comes out of the nut, exposure to the air turns it into dark brown walnut stain that will not come off. Put the nuts with the remaining ingredients in a jar, cover it tightly, and put it in a warm, dark place for 40 days, shaking it every two or three days.

Once the nuts have steeped taste the nocino. If you find it too strong dilute it with some spring water. Then line a funnel with filter paper and strain the nocino into bottles. Stopper them and age the nocino for about six months in a cool dark place. It's wonderful at the end of a meal, or around a fire with friends. It also makes a perfect Christmas gift.

This recipe is based on Pellegrino Artusi's, from The Art of Eating Well

© Kyle Phillips, 1996

Kyle Phillips's translation of Pellegrino Artusi's La Scienza in Cucina e L'Arte di Mangiar Bene, the first really successful Italian cookbook aimed at non-professionals (it came out in 1891, and the 10th edition, from 1910, is still selling briskly), has just come out from Random House. It is entitled The Art of Eating Well.