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Some experiments refuse to end.  Before I deemed it a failure, I bottled up most of the the black walnut nocino into a fancy bottle.  But there was some of the vile green liquid left over, and I just left it in the large jar in which the green walnuts have macerated.  This meant it was exposed to a lot more oxygen than previously, when I had filled the sealed jar basically up to the top.  Turns out oxidation was exactly what the nocino needed to turn a beautiful espresso color:

Brown Nocino (Large)

It still tasted a bit medicinal, but some carmelly undertones had developed that made the liqueur somewhat smoother.  I’m going to aerate the rest of the batch and see how it starts to evolve.  At the very least, the color will no longer resemble bilge-water.  Quite an improvement!

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Nocino Update

nocino_stage1It’s been more than a month since I started a batch of nocino, a liqueur infusion made with green walnuts and bit of spice. I used foraged unripe black walnuts that I nicked from a park on Massachusetts Avenue. When I quartered the walnuts, they had a heady aroma that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was minty and licoricey and peppery and grassy all at the same time. And when the walnut quarters first went into the vodka and sugar, the mixture was a beautiful pale green.

Well, a couple days later the mixture had turned a glassy blue-ish green. It was developing none of the carmelly brown color nocino is supposed to have. Every day, more inky green clouds would leech into the liquid.

Now, after another month, the concoction is the color of bilge-water. A cloudy and greenish-brown syrupy mess.

Ugly Nocino (Large)

Yes, I tasted it. I tried it both at room temperature and over ice. The taste is… well, this strange brew does taste better than it looks, but that’s not saying much. It’s rather medicinal and unsettling, though intriguing enough to be worth a taste. I’ve never had real nocino, so I’m not sure whether this version tastes like it’s supposed to.

Overall, I have to call this experiment a failure. There’s still something I find incredibly tantalizing about the smell of green walnuts, but this bile-like substance is really not very appetizing.

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Black walnuts grow all over the place in the parks and residential neighborhoods of DC. They have distinctive leaves and very distinctive green fruits:

green_walnuts (Medium)

If left on the tree, each green globe will turn into a woody, gnarled black walnut surrounded by a mottled green and brown leathery husk that can be peeled away with a little effort. green_walnut_halvedBut right now they’re still in the green stage, where the whole fruit is one cohesive whole. Slice one of these in half, and it’s just a lot of pith surrounding the beginnings of the edible nut (see right).

This is the stage where, theoretically, one can make the Italian liqueur known as nocino. I’ve never personally tasted it, but the description on food blogs sounded intriguing. So when I saw some low-hanging green (black) walnuts on a recent walk in a local park, I picked eight of them and started a batch of nocino. I used the proportions in this recipe, more or less. I only had 80-proof vodka instead of the recommended 100-proof (some recipes even suggest using grain alcohol), so my liqueur will be less alcoholic than I guess nocino is supposed to be.

But it’ll be fun to see what the flavor turns out to be. The green walnuts themselves had a heady, almost minty smell, so I think the liqueur could be very tasty. The chemicals in the walnuts will also eventually turn the whole brew a rich brown color – dark enough to stain anything it touches, apparently. But for now the mixture is clear and beautiful. I’ll report on the finished results in a month or two!

nocino_stage1

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