My annual diet schedule can best be described as loose. Spring is the time to look for slopes when life returns to the landscape, the Elderflower season begins around the Solstice, during the Fall Equinox and after the first frost, the Persimmons. My one exception to this loose method is walnuts, which I harvest every year on June 24, when they are still unripe, to make a green walnut liqueur called nosino. This date is not the one I settled on, however; This is the date that millennials harvested walnuts to make nosino in Europe.
The earliest written account of the Nosino production dates back to the days of the Roman Empire, when Roman soldiers learned about the practice from the Celtic Picht tribe of eastern Scotland. On June 24 each year, during the celebration of the Midsummer Solstice, Paganistic Pictures harvest walnuts to fill with alcohol for a brew that is thought to have supernatural properties. This June 24 date has not been chosen for religious purposes. At this early stage of walnut development, the films knew that hardened husks were not yet developed, making it significantly easier to cut. The black liquid found in the center of the walnut is more important at this young stage, if left unchecked, the walnut will begin to harden after a few days. Timely enough, this dark liquid dissolves in the surrounding alcohol and over the next six months, its jet fills with black and spicy, earthy and slightly bitter flavor.
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The Romans adopted the practice from the Picts and brought it back to Italy, where the production of nosino was deeply embedded in Italian culture. According to ancient legend, the Romans send an odd number of barefoot virgins to the trees to collect walnuts every night between June 23 and June 24. Then the seeds are cut in half and dipped in alcohol until December, when the nocino is consumed in celebrations with the winter solstice. In the 4th century AD, after the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, these rituals were changed to suit the Christian holidays of St. John and Christmas respectively.
The tradition of making nosino eventually spread throughout the empire and remains intact in much of rural Europe today. In France, black walnuts are used to make a French counterpart nozzino, called liqueur de noix and vin de noix, in which the seeds are placed in red wine and produce a product similar to vermouth. On the Italian peninsula, you still have families (or Ratafia de NossiAt St. John’s feast, as they have been known for centuries.
Most commercial nosinos available today are made from European species, Juglans RegiaColloquially known as “common,” “English” or “Persian” walnut, there are many other species. Juglans The genus, which can be used imaginatively to make Ausino unique to their native regions. In the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, where I live, native walnut species include rich black walnut (J. Nigra), As well as the more rarely spread butternut or white walnut (J. Cinerea), A fungal infection known as butternut canker, has reduced their numbers in recent years. As you move further west, you will find the Texas Walnut (J. microcarpa), Arizona Walnut ()J. Major), California black walnut (J. California), And Northern California Walnut (J. Hindsi) Then the South Central and South American varieties expand as fast as Argentina, and there are several other walnut species found in the Eurasia, from the British Isles to Japan.
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Until my dream of the international web of nosino producers came true, I was very satisfied with making a few gallons of nosino each year using black and white walnuts growing up within walking distance from my home. I choose my black walnuts along the way to the town race in the suburb of New Jersey, attracting exotic looks from jogging in the process. Even more strange is my white walnut-eating place on the edge of the parking lot at a nearby corporate office park. This is far from the bucolic foraging scene, but it was the only place I found them growing up around me.
Once I have enough shipment, I bring the seeds to The Farm and Fisherman’s Tavern, a restaurant that operates a bar program, and work to halve them before packing them in half-gallon mason jars. From there, I cover them with New Jersey-made Devil’s Springs 151 Proof vodka, put them on the shelf, and forget them when I pour the seeds and then dilute, sweeten and spice them after Thanksgiving.
After an extra month of relaxation, it’s ready to share with restaurant guests, friends and family during the holidays. Nocino is great in its own right as a digestive, but it really plays a supporting role for dark spirits in cocktails. Try to swap it out where it’s not in Vermouth or Amari, or use it in conjunction with what I did on the following Black Walnut Boulevardier.
Makes approximately two quarts
2 quarts of unripe walnuts
6 cups 151 proof vodka (such as Devil’s Springs or Everclair)
4 cups of water
2 tablespoons Angostura bitters
1 cup rich demerara syrup
Harvest your walnuts, on or around June 24th. That same day, cut them in half and place them in a two-quarter mason jar and cover them with 151 proof vodka. Let it melt at room temperature for approximately five months.
In late November or early December, breed black walnuts and reserve the liquid (yielding about four cups). Add four cups of water, two tablespoons of Angostura bitters and one cup of Rich Demerara Syrup (recipe below). It stays at room temperature indefinitely.
Rich Demerara Syrup
Makes approximately one cup
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of demerara sugar
2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low boil, stirring frequently, until the sugar is completely melted. Keeps in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Black Walnut Boulevardier
1 ounce bourbon
¾ Ounce Nosino
¾ Sweet Vermouth
^ Ounce Campari
Orange Twist (for decoration)
Add Bourbon, Nocino, Campari and Sweet Vermouth to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir until well cooled and strain on a large cube. Garnish with expressed orange peel.