A Homemade Italian Liquor: Nocino

If you enjoy a cold Limoncello during the summer, you will love this homemade Italian liquor for the winter, made with green walnuts.

italian liquor NocinoNocino is less well known than Limoncello.

While Limoncello is perfect as a summer after dinner digestive, Nocino is its winter equivalent.

It has a nutty creamy taste and is the perfect digestive after a winter stew or roast.

It is not easy to find in the store, so the best option is to make it at home......

 

and NOW is the time!

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The challenge is to find the ingredients......

 

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1. First challenge: Find a walnut tree.

Nocino is made with green walnuts and they have to be picked before they mature on the tree, around mid June.

They do not sell them at the Supermarkets, so you will need to find a tree.

Walnut tree in June

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Walnuts Hull in June

The Italian tradition recommends to pick the walnuts on Saint John’s day, the 24th of June,  but clearly it depends on your location.

I picked them last week and they were at the perfect stage of maturity, green outside and white inside.

2. Walnut hull benefits

The walnut hull contains a certain percentage of hydrojuglone.

When you cut the walnut the hydrojuglone reacts with the Oxygen and forms the juglone which has a reddish colour.

The juglone has antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic effects.

It is used as fungicide for skin and for natural hair colouring.

walnut hull juglone

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3. Where I found the walnuts

In a magical garden with a 360 degree panoramic view over Saint Paul de Vence, the sea and the Alps.

It is the garden of Elisabeth Soulaine.

Elisabeth is my son Francesco’s art teacher; she runs Art Atelier classes for children at her villa in Saint Paul de Vence.

Francesco has attended her classes since he was 5 years old.

A large glass room with a long table full of colours, chalk, pastels, watercolour, oil painting where children can express all their creativity.

Every year at the end of June, Elisabeth organises an Art Exposition of all the children’s art work in her garden.

The garden around the walnut trees was always full of perished walnuts, not even the squirrels could finish them all.                    

So this year I couldn’t resist and asked Elisabeth if I can pick some for a recipe.

walnuts tree in Elisabeth's garden

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green walnut hull

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The supply was more than enough, so I had to find the second rare ingredient.

4. The second rare ingredient

95% pure alcohol, which you can only find in Italy!

Here on the Cote d’Azur, it is easy to drive to the Italian frontier and buy it in Ventimiglia.

Though, my luck was just around the corner as our friends Pierre and Anna had some extra, and proposed an exchange: 1 liter of alcohol in exchange of 1/3 of the Nocino.

If you cannot buy the 95% pure Alcohol, use Vodka but do not add the syrup.

 


95% alchol

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Aunt Clementina, Aunt Anna, Aunt lalla, Aunt Liliana

Starting from the left my Aunt Clementina (my mother’s older sister), my Aunt Anna (my father’s older sister), my Aunt Lalla (my father younger sister) and last my Aunt Liliana, (my father’s older brother’s wife)

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5. The Nocino recipe

The recipe is a family treasure, it was given to me from my Aunt Anna (second from the left), my father’s sister.

Every time we would go to visit her she would have a cupboard full of homemade liquors, some from the family and others from my cousin’s friends from Tuscany.

Also my Aunt Lalla (third from the left, and yes, Laura like me), their younger sister,  she is famous for her Limoncello, and we had a delicious one last summer in Lipari.

The lemons from the Eolie Islands in Sicily are unbeatable, and her recipe is outstanding. Unfortunately our lemon tree died, but when we replant a lemon tree I will share the recipe with you.

My father, Francesco (here with my Aunt Lalla at her first communion), used to make Citronella, which we grew in our terrace. Even if he never drank it, we always had some to offer when friends came for dinner. 

For Italians, homemade liquors are like special family treats, and like memories and old pictures, we like to share them with our friends.

Francesco e Laura Giunta

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italian liquor Nocino

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6. Now let’s make this Italian liquor

I obtained the remaining ingredients and am ready to start.

For 1 liter of 95% pure alcohol the ingredients are as follows:

  •  16 green walnuts
  •  16 cloves
  •  16 coffee beans
  • 1 pinch of cinnamon
  • the zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ kilo of sugar
  • ½ litre of water

I use a large glass container holding at least 3 litres, which I bought exclusively to make these liquors.

In this container I mix all the ingredients and let them marinate.

Make sure the neck of the container is wide enough otherwise the smaller ingredients may not come out of the container once the liquor has marinated.

Don’t let the neck of the container become a bottleneck!

Nocino bottle with large bottleneck

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Cut the walnuts into quarters

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Cut the walnuts into quarters, using rubber gloves as the walnut stains very badly.

 

Peel the lemon with a potato peeler trying  to avoid having too much of the white.

Cut the lemon zest into small slices so they can easily be removed from the bottle

 

Lemon zest for nocino

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Nocino, Mix everything in a large bottle

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Mix everything in the bottle and keep in a dark place for 40 days.

Just remember to give the bottle a shake every day.

 

After 40 days, filter the alcohol but do not throw away the walnuts.

 

 

Filter the Nocino

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SaveFilter the Nocino

Syrup for Nocino

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Make the syrup by warming up the water and sugar mix until the sugar has dissolved.
Wait until the syrup is cold before mixing it with the Nocino.

Once you have mixed everything together you can pour it into small bottles and store them in your liquor cupboard.

Mix Nocino with syrup and pour into bottles

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Nocino leftover walnuts

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It is best to wait until Christmas to drink it!

Remember, if you still have some left over, it is a special treat to give friends at Christmas. 
One of mine is for Elisabeth!

7. Why you shouldn’t throw away the walnuts?

The deal with Pierre was: 1 litre of 95% alcohol in exchange of 1/3 Nocino and 1/3 Nocino wine.

 

 

Nocino leftover walnuts

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VinNocino wine with walnuts

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To make Nocino wine you just put the alcohol soaked walnuts into 3 bottles of wine (red, rose or white).

Pierre likes it even better than Nocino.

As a test I will drink it as a mulled wine!
 
 

5 from 4 votes
Nocino leftover walnuts
Print
Nocino Recipe
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
1 hrs
 
It is a great liquor to offer after dinner. While a cold Limoncello is great for the summer, the Nocino is perfect for winter.
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 50 servings
Calories: 100 kcal
Ingredients
  • 1 litre 95% pure alcohol if you cannot buy it replace with Vodka and don't add sugar and water
  • 16 green walnuts
  • 16 cloves
  • 16 coffee beans
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 lemon zest
  • 1/2 kilo sugar
  • 1/2 litre water
Instructions
  1. Cut the walnuts into quarters, using rubber gloves as the walnut stains very badly.
    Nocino recipe Cut the walnuts into quarters
  2. Peel the lemon with a potato peeler trying to avoid having too much of the white. Cut the lemon zest into small slices
    Lemon zest for nocino
  3. Use a large glass container holding at least 3 litres with a wide bottleneck
    Nocino, Mix everything in a large bottle
  4. Mix everything in the bottle and keep in a dark place for 40 days.
    Nocino: let it rest for 40 days
  5. Give the bottle a shake every day.
    Nocino syrup
  6. After 40 days, filter the alcohol but do not throw away the walnuts.
    Filter the Nocino
  7. Make the syrup by warming up the water and sugar mix until the sugar has dissolved.
  8. Wait until the syrup is cold before mixing it with the Nocino.
    Syrup for Nocino
  9. Once you have mixed everything together you can pour it into small bottles and store them in your liquor cupboard.
    Mix Nocino with syrup and pour into bottles
  10. It is best to wait until Christmas to drink it!
  11. Remember, if you still have some left over, it is a special treat to give friends at Christmas.
    Nocino leftover walnuts
  12. You can make Nocino Wine by putting the alcohol soaked walnuts into 3 bottles of wine (red, rose or white).Enjoy !
    VinNocino wine with walnuts
Recipe Notes
 

A Homemade Italian Liquor Nocino

  17 comments for “A Homemade Italian Liquor: Nocino

  1. 22nd June 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Laura, that was a fun read! I wish I could try the Nocino, but probably not as it has caffeine in it. I loved seeing the photos of your family!

    • Laura
      23rd June 2017 at 3:38 am

      Thank you Elaine, when you come to France I make sure to have one without coffee

  2. 23rd June 2017 at 8:24 am

    Oh Laura, what an awesome post, I just love to make my alcohols and therefore I always have a 95° alcohol bottle at the ready! Of course, for the nocino, I wouldn’t know where to find the walnuts. I guess I’ll have to taste yours, That’ll be a long wait, Christmas is 6 months away… Loved your family photos 🙂

    • Laura
      23rd June 2017 at 9:18 am

      Deal, come over with your husband around Christmas time. But what a pity, I have some extra walnuts!

  3. Jagruti
    25th June 2017 at 3:23 pm

    What a beautiful post you have shared with us, never heard of Nocino, glad you are following your family recipes. I don’t think I can find green walnuts here in the UK:(

    • Laura
      25th June 2017 at 4:32 pm

      Thank you Jagruti, I know they are rare ingredients. That is what makes them a great Christmas gift

  4. Noel Lizotte
    25th June 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Wow! That was a wonderful lesson. I appreciate learning more about other cultures and this was a peek into yours. I really love the old family photos. Keep the traditions alive!

    • Laura
      25th June 2017 at 4:29 pm

      Thank you, they are good memories as most have passed away

  5. 25th June 2017 at 5:48 pm

    It sounds delicious! I probably don’t have the patience to make it, but I sure would enjoy trying it. 🙂 I love the story behind your recipe – such great memories!

    • Laura
      26th June 2017 at 5:07 am

      Thank you Jenn, I am looking forward to trying it as well

  6. 25th June 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Love the family history and photos! I don’t think I’ve ever seen green walnuts before! This sounds like it must be amazing and how special that you’re continuing such a beautiful tradition!

    • Laura
      26th June 2017 at 5:06 am

      Thank you, Christina I was delighted when I found the walnut tree. I looking forward to next stage.

  7. 26th June 2017 at 1:59 am

    What an interesting article Laura. So much to learn about. Its the first time I’ve seen pictures of green walnuts. An Italian couple who ran a restaurant here in Mombasa did mention once that she makes her own liquor when I had mentioned to her that I’d tasted limoncello for the first time during our trip to Italy. Now waiting patiently for the bottled liquor.

    • Laura
      26th June 2017 at 5:05 am

      thank you Mayuri, it is amazing how making liquor is an Italian family tradition even for those who left Italy long time ago. It stays into their heritage

  8. 26th June 2017 at 9:49 pm

    I think that the quest to track down these rare ingredients would make for a fabulous trip! This sounds absolutely delicious. What gorgeous photos!

    • Laura
      27th June 2017 at 4:21 am

      Thank you, now you have a reason to visit the Cote d’Azur

  9. Beth @ Binky's Culinary Carnival
    27th June 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I have never tried Nocino! What an interesting recipe and a great way to use the walnuts! Thanks for sharing, Laura!

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