I am a person who likes to live above her station in food. I admit it. Whenever I read of some good-but-expensive new thing from a fancy-pants place like New York or, worse, France, my pulse quickens a little. I want to try that! How could I go to my grave never having tasted sea urchin, or lardo, or that expensive Spanish ham made from pigs who graze all day in acorn groves?
So it is that I have embarked on a quest to make nocino–that Italian sweet brown liqueur made from green walnuts. Yes. Those pesky round things that stain up your driveway, if you have a black walnut tree. Michael Pollen made a teasing reference to it in The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’ve been entranced by the idea ever since I first heard of it a couple of years ago.
I just want to try it, is all. Maybe I won’t like it. But alas, a 750 ml bottle of nocino at one of the few places that sell it, goes for $60-$70. And I think financial experts would agree that we are not in the correct income group to buy one “just to try.” Not even if Mike were to wear yachting clothes and start calling me “Lovey.”
So I let the idea go. Until Tuesday, when I noticed how many baby walnuts the wind had blown down from the tree that’s on the back edge of our yard.
As it turns out, right now is prime time for making nocino (or if you prefer the French version, vin de noix) because the young walnuts have not yet formed shells and can still be cut in quarters.
First, I would need 30-40 young walnuts. I only had about 17. So off I went to find the other black walnut trees in the neighborhood and easily collected some prime undamaged ones from the curbside and public spaces. (Want to score big points with your teenage daughter? Put on your worst clothes and walk around her friends’ houses with a plastic bag. Congratulations! You have become the “walnut lady.”)
Next step: Soak them overnight to get rid of any worms.
Next day: Cut them into quarters and put in a clean glass jar. Unless you want to be mistaken for a 40-pack-a-day smoker, latex gloves are a must. And old clothes. I think it was Medieval people who worked with walnuts who invented the word “stain.” I even flipped my cutting board upside down.
Then I added 3 cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, peel of 1 orange, 1 vanilla bean and
about 1.25 liters vodka. The whole thing will soak for about 2 months, then will be strained and added to 3 cups sugar and a quarter liter cheap sparkling wine. Then, the online people say, it will have to sit for several more months until it stops tasting like lighter fluid.
I’ll check back in when that happens.With any kind of luck, we’ll have some sweet nocino to sip in our basement as the world is economy is collapsing around us.
Garden updates: Right now is a great time in the garden. We’re getting zucchini, green beans, potatoes, chard and peas, which are about done. Cucumbers are less than a week away and tomatoes are still green balls of promise for mid-July. That broccoli is–finally!–showing signs of flower buds.
This week’s chores included tieing up some of the cauliflower that is beginning to form heads, putting a little pyrethrin dust on the eggplant and cucumbers, which have a little bug damage. Mike has also done some preventative milk spraying on the plants that seem prone to powdery mildew.
And of course we’re always mulching. No end to that in sight.
Posted by: Roxie