Italian legend has it that every year on June 24th, the night of San Giovanni, witches used to come together and gather around an enchanting walnut tree. Today, during this magical night, green walnuts are picked to make a deliciously unique liqueur called Nocino (noce = walnut). This wonderful spirit is traditional of the Italian region of Emilia Romagna and in my family’s home town of Ferrara, making it is a MUST for every family!
The recipe is fairly simple and like most recipes in Italy, quantities are subject to every household’s taste. The following is the traditional recipe which follows the legend with the use of the multiples of the “magical” number 13. Needless to say you do not have to follow these numbers but they at least give you an idea of the proportions. If nature has blessed your hometown with perfect green walnuts and plenty of sun, you’ll have no problem making it!
39 green walnuts (1 Kg is usually enough)
1 Lt. of pure grain alcohol
5 whole cloves
nutmeg to taste
1 ½ cinnamon sticks
peel of one lemon, preferably in a single string or long pieces
- The walnuts must be first brushed with a cloth to remove any dirt.
- You will also need a glass jar with hermetic seal such as the ones with new lids used to preserve marmalades or preferably with a new hermetic rubber band.
- Using gloves to protect your hands, crush the walnuts and place them in the jar. Pour in the alcohol and spices.
- This powerful concoction must in the SUN for at least 65 days (no, it actually does not explode!). Make sure to turn it and move it around at least once a day.
- After 65 days, make the sugar syrup by simply heating the water and dissolving the sugar.
- Strain the nuts and spices and mix in the syrup. The liquor must remain in the sun for another two weeks, turning it once a day just like before.
- You could now enjoy your Nocino though it is usually saved for the Christmas holydays and New Years.
- Needless to say, the longer the Nocino rests after the sugar syrup is added, the better it gets. Because of the high alcohol content and addition of sugar, this liquor can last for years. Even though it will loose some of the alcohol through evaporation as time goes by, some families keep their Nocini just as if they were wine vintages and taste a little bit of each every year.