The Italian green walnut liqueur Nocino is the winter variant of the Limoncello. It has a rich flavor made with unripe green walnuts, infused with lemon peel, coffee beans, cinnamon sticks and cloves, it is the liqueur version of a Christmas pudding. But do not wait any longer to make it at home, you need to find a walnut tree and pick the walnuts by the end of June!
- First challenge: Where do I find unripe green walnuts
- The second rare ingredient
- When to drink Nocino
- Why shouldn’t you throw away the walnuts?
- No risk of botulism
- Desserts you can serve with Nocino
- More homemade liqueurs recipes
- Setting up a liqueur workshop
- 📋 Homemade Green Walnut Liqueur Nocino Recipe
This traditional Italian liqueur is less well-known than Limoncello. While Limoncello is perfect as a Summer after-dinner digestive, Nocino is its winter equivalent.
It has a rich, nutty, creamy taste and is the perfect digestive after a winter rich meal. It is difficult to find in the store, so the best option is a homemade Nocino......
and NOW is the time!
Nocino is made on June 24th, St John's day, it will be ready for Christmas time
The challenge is to find the ingredients......
First challenge: Where do I find unripe green walnuts
Nocino is made with green walnuts and must be picked before they mature on the tree, around mid-June.
That is why the June deadline is so important!
They do not sell them at the Supermarkets, so you will need to find a tree of walnuts.
This European walnut species is also known as English walnuts.
Depending on where you are in the world, you may find one very close to you. To find out more, you can read the article:
When to pick the English walnuts
The Italian tradition recommends picking the walnuts on the day of San Giovanni, the 24th of June, but it depends on your location.
I picked them around the 10th of June, and they are at the perfect stage of maturity.
The unripe walnuts have green husks, and they are still white inside.
If you pick them too late, the walnut hardens, and the hard shell becomes too difficult to cut.
However, up in the mountains above 3500 feet - 1000 meters altitude, you can find unripe walnuts with green outer shells in August
English Walnut hull benefits
The walnut hull contains a certain percentage of hydroquinone. When you cut the walnut, the hydrojuglone reacts with the Oxygen and forms the juglone, which has a reddish color.
The juglone has antibacterial, antiviral, and antiparasitic effects. It is used as a fungicide for skin and natural hair coloring.
Therefore, green walnuts stain, so you must wear gloves when cutting them.
The second rare ingredient
The other rare ingredient is 95% pure alcohol, which you can find in Italy, but not here in France! Here on the Cote d’Azur, it is easy to drive to the Italian frontier and buy it in Ventimiglia.
In USA, Johnnie mentioned in the comment below that you can find 95% Alcohol Everclear.
If you cannot buy the 95% pure Alcohol in your country, you can use Vodka.
Though, my luck was just around the corner as our friends Pierre and Anna had some extra and proposed an exchange: 1 litre of alcohol in exchange of ⅓ of the Liqueur de Noix (as they call it in France).
This is the traditional Italian Nocino Liqueur recipe
For 4 cups - 1 liter of 95% pure alcohol, the ingredients are as follows:
- 16 green walnuts: you need the whole nut
- 16 cloves
- 16 coffee beans
- 1 pinch of cinnamon
- the zest of 1 lemon
For the sugar syrup:
- 1 lb - ½ kilo of sugar
- 2 cups - ½ litre of water
N.B. Before you start, have disposable plastic gloves as the walnut hull makes indelible stains.
If not, you will have stained fingers for a while.
I use a large jar holding at least 1 gal - 3 litres, which I bought exclusively to make these liquors.
Make sure the bottleneck is large enough; otherwise, you will have...a bottleneck when you try to remove the walnuts from the bottle.
- On a cutting board, cut the walnuts into quarters, using rubber gloves as the walnut stains very badly.
- Peel the lemon with a potato peeler to avoid having too much white. Cut the lemon zest into small slices
- Use a large glass container holding at least 1 gal - 3 litres with a wide bottleneck
- Mix the spices and the cut pieces of green nuts with the alcohol in the bottle. Keep in a dark place for 40 days.
- Give the bottle a shake every second day.
- After 40 days, filter the alcohol using layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter but do not throw away the walnuts.
- Make the syrup by warming up the cups of water and sugar until it has dissolved
- Wait until the syrup is at room temperature before mixing it with the Nocino.
- Once you have mixed everything, pour the finished product into small bottles and store them in a cool dark spot or your liquor cupboard.
When to drink Nocino
Once the walnut liqueur Nocino bottles are ready, it is best to wait a few months before you drink them. Christmas is a perfect time!
If you buy some fancy small bottles, this Italian liquor is a special treat to give friends at Christmas. They will love it.
One of my bottles is definitely for Elisabeth, who has the walnut tree!
For more edible liquor gifts you can check the category: Homemade liquors
Why shouldn’t you throw away the walnuts?
The deal with Pierre was: 1 liter of 95% alcohol in exchange for ⅓ Nocino and ⅓ Nocino wine. Nocino wine is made by pouring some wine over the walnuts leftover from the Nocino.
The wine will absorb the flavor of the walnuts and spices and add some extra alcoholic grades.
To make Nocino wine, you just put the alcohol-soaked walnuts into three bottles of wine (red, rose or white).
Pierre likes it even better than Nocino. As a test, I will make some with red wine and drink it as a mulled wine at Christmas and some white wine to drink cold!
You can soak the walnuts in the wine for at least one month. I left them in there and used the wine to make mulled wine for Christmas.
No risk of botulism
Since a reader asked, I would like to reassure everyone who has doubts, this liqueur is not at risk of botulism. This recipe uses Alcohol 95% or vodka 50% of ethanol.
A study proves botulism cannot grow in Alcohol: ”The growth and neurotoxin production (botulism) was delayed by an ethanol concentration of 4% ethanol and completely inhibited by a concentration of 6%”.
Botulism concerns home canning… not fermentation or infusions of fruits and vegetables. Here is more information about botulism from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service:
Desserts you can serve with Nocino
Here is a list of desserts you can serve with Nocino:
More homemade liqueurs recipes
Homemade liqueurs are such a satisfying project, enjoy them after dinner with your partner on a special day, offer them at the end of a dinner party or package them in fancy bottles as an edible gift.
I already have some published and more will come. Just be ready when the fruits are in season to start your collection:
- limoncello cream
- chocolate liqueur
- strawberry liqueur
- licorice liqueur
- Italian eggnog VOV
- violet liqueur
- blueberry liqueur
Check out the category: Homemade liquors
You can also check out the web story: 9 Homemade Italian Liqueurs
For those of you who like the thrill of the forbidden fruit, try to make Concord Grape Wine Fragolino.
Banned in Europe for commercial use, you can only try it if you make it for personal consumption.
Setting up a liqueur workshop
You can easily create your liqueur workshop with just a few items. They are not expensive and you can order them online from my Amazon shop: Homemade Liqueur Lab. Those are my favorite and specially selected tools to make the process smooth and easy:
- Jars 67 ounce - 2 liters: I use large canning jars to infuse herbs or fruits in the alcohol. They are easily sealed and don't take much room in the cupboard. I usually brew different types of liqueurs at the same times so I need several jars. If you are an occasional liqueur maker, you can just use the bottle below.
- 1 gallon - 3-liters glass bottle: I use this bottle in the second part of the brewing process, once I add the syrup. It is a transparent glass bottle so I can check how the liqueur is progressing and if it needs a good shake. It is important that this bottle has a large neck so the residuals of the fruits, zests, spices, or herbs can be easily removed without any problem once the liqueur is ready to be bottled. Personally I have 2 of those large bottles.
- Funnel with a wide and short stem: When you are pouring the liqueur from one bottle to another during the brewing process, you need to have a funnel with a wide and short stem so it doesn't get clog with the ingredients that are brewing in the alcohol.
- Auto-stop funnel: However, once the liqueur is ready, filtered and all the solid particles have been removed, I like to use an auto-stop funnel with a floating system that stops the liquid from flowing once the bottled has been filled.
It is very difficult to gauge how much liquid can fit in a bottle and I often fill the funnel way too much. Instead of overflowing the bottle, the auto-stop funnel locks the stem automatically and the excess liquid remains in the funnel.
The funnel can be easily removed, transferred into another bottle using the handle that keeps the liquid inside the funnel and no liqueur is wasted.
- Fine Mesh Strainer: to remove all solids and particles from the liqueur once it is ready to be filtered.
- Measuring mugs: it is very important to use the exact proportion of syrup vs alcohol. Measurements mugs are a must.
- Ladle with spout: to easily pour the liquid into the funnels from a large bowl or pan. I always use the ladle with a spout to take the syrup from the pan where I boiled it into the funnel. If you don't have a pan with a spout, this is the easiest way to pour the syrup once it is cold.
- Fancy vintage bottles: I love to have my own liqueur assortment into those vintage bottles. It gives my homemade liqueurs an extra wow factor.
- Small glass bottles with lids: if you want to store the liqueurs in small bottles or if you want to give it as gifts to friends and family those small bottles are perfect. The lid seals and they can be easily carried. They even come with labels to write the name of the liqueur and the date.
- Shot glass set and/or Small liqueur glasses: it is very important to serve the liqueur in small shot glasses so it can be slowly sipped and relished.
- Good Grips Bottle Brush: to easily clean all the bottles after each use. Some liqueurs can be very sticky and stain easily like the walnut hull.
- If you want to give your liqueur an extra festive look you can also use the Rose Ice Cube Stackable to make rose ices or the ice cube with light to make your liqueur shine at night.
If you are making this Homemade Green Walnut Liqueur Nocino, leave your comment below I would like to hear from you. You can find more delicious ideas if you FOLLOW ME on Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram or sign up to my newsletter.
📋 Homemade Green Walnut Liqueur Nocino Recipe
- Cut the walnuts into quarters, using rubber gloves as the walnut stains very badly.16 green walnuts
- Peel the lemon with a potato peeler trying to avoid having too much of the white. Cut the lemon zest into small slices1 lemon zest
- Use a large glass container holding at least 1 gal - 3 litres with a wide bottleneck
- Mix all the spices with the alcohol in the bottle and keep them in a dark place for 40 days.16 cloves, 16 coffee beans, 1 pinch cinnamon, 4 cup 95% alcohol or vodka
- Give the bottle a shake every day.
- After 40 days, make the syrup by warming up the water and sugar mix until the sugar has dissolved.2 cup fresh water, 17 oz caster sugar
- Wait until the syrup is cold before mixing it with the Nocino.
- Filter the mix but do not throw away the walnuts.
- Once you have mixed everything together you can pour it into small bottles and store them in your liquor cupboard.
- It is best to wait until Christmas to drink it!
- You can make Nocino Wine by putting the alcohol soaked walnuts into 3 bottles of wine (red, rose or white). Enjoy !
- Use rubber gloves when you cut the walnuts as the walnut stains very badly
- Use a large glass container holding at least 1 gal - 3 litres to 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!
- 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.
- Do not throw away the walnuts
Nocino recipe is an Italian family tradition
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 we replant a lemon tree so I shared my recipe Here.
My father, Francesco (here with my Aunt Lalla at her first communion), used to make Citronella liqueur, 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.
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.
The supply was more than enough, so I had to find the second rare ingredient.