Nocino is an Italian liqueur deeply rooted in tradition, crafted using walnuts as the primary ingredient. It’s also known as Nocino of June 24th or San Giovanni Nocino, as it’s prepared on the night of June 24th, during which the green walnuts are collected. In this article, we’ll present its traditional recipe through a photographic gallery, emphasizing that it should be crafted at the start of summer to be ready for the winter season. Patience is indeed required for the preparation of nocino. The resulting infusion boasts a warm and robust flavor, making it an ideal choice for consumption during the cold winter months.
Now, let’s delve into the process of making nocino, drawing inspiration from its associated tradition and its key ingredient, walnuts.
The Tradition of this Ancient Walnut Liqueur
The tradition of nocino liqueur is deeply ingrained in our country’s heritage. Its history is closely tied to the feast of San Giovanni (St. John). June 24th is the day when the still-green (unripe) walnuts, the main ingredient of this liqueur, are harvested.
The day of San Giovanni is associated with numerous beliefs and rituals, straddling the line between sacred and profane. For instance, June 24th is considered the ideal day for harvesting St. John’s Wort and preparing its red oil.
Regarding nocino, tradition connects it with a ritual performed by witches around the walnut tree. It was believed that these witches used the branches of the walnut tree to fly.
On the night between June 23rd and 24th, one of the shortest nights of the year, the still-green walnuts were collected barefoot to invigorate the plant, on the night when light triumphs over darkness.
While the tradition of gathering walnuts specifically on this night has waned over the centuries, the practice of preparing nocino liqueur from unripe fruits remains. For crafting this liqueur, the entire walnut, along with its husk (the pulp surrounding the immature fruit), is used. It’s essential to harvest the walnuts before they develop a hard shell, while they’re still tender enough to be easily cut (or, according to tradition, pierced from side to side with a simple pin). Ideally, this occurs during the early summer period, from late June to early July.
The Original Nocino Liqueur Recipe
Nocino Recipe: Ingredients
Let’s explore the ingredients for crafting the original nocino (approximately two liters of liqueur):
- 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of green walnuts (traditionally 24), sourced from organic agriculture
- 1 liter of food-grade 95% alcohol
- 6 cloves
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 3 organic lemon peels
- 1/2 liter of water
- 17.6 oz (500 g) of raw cane sugar
How to Make Homemade Nocino Liqueur
Now, let’s learn how to make homemade nocino. To craft this liqueur, start by thoroughly washing and drying the walnuts. Next, divide them into 4 equal parts and place them in a wide-mouthed glass jar.
Subsequently, add the cloves, lemon peel, and cinnamon. These ingredients serve to infuse the liqueur with flavor, but it’s important not to overdo it. Adhere to the specified quantities to maintain the classic taste of nocino.
Of course, following the aromatics, add the alcohol.
Original Nocino Recipe: Maceration
Once all the ingredients are added, seal the jar and let it macerate for at least 45 days. Choose a partially sunny location, such as in front of a window that receives direct sunlight during certain hours of the day.
It’s crucial to periodically shake the jar to prevent the walnuts from settling at the bottom and to extract the maximum active components from them. It’s advisable to shake the jar at least once a day.
As time passes, you’ll notice the mixture turning dark, almost black, the characteristic color of nocino.
Adding Syrup, Darkening, and Storage
After the 45-day period, it’s time to add the syrup made with water and sugar.
In a pot, dissolve 1.1 lbs (1/2 kg) of sugar in half a liter of water over low heat to avoid caramelization. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, turn off the heat and let it cool.
In the meantime, strain the mixture using a fine mesh strainer (like this one) to separate the liqueur base from the walnuts and aromatics.
At this point, add the syrup and gently, yet thoroughly, mix it to achieve a uniform liqueur.
Your nocino is now ready to be bottled, using dark glass bottles (such as these).
After bottling, store it in a cool, dark place for about 4 months. It’s essential to avoid direct sunlight.
According to tradition, nocino is ready to be enjoyed during the Christmas season.
Enjoying Nocino Liqueur
We’ve covered the process of making nocino. Now, let’s explore the best ways to savor it. Nocino boasts an intense flavor, a very dark color, and a relatively dense texture. It’s ideal as a post-meal digestif and is also used as a tonic and for liver issues. It can be consumed at room temperature or slightly chilled after a brief stint in the fridge. Avoid serving it over ice, so don’t keep it in the freezer.
We hope our recipe has inspired you to craft this traditional liqueur artfully. If you’re seeking more inspiration, explore other recipes like limoncello, pomegranate liqueur, liquorice, chocolate, wild fennel, and bay leaf, which we’ve already shared in previous recipes.
That’s all for now. Enjoy your journey with Nocino of June 24th!