sorry squirrels

I've written before about the old walnut tree in my yard and how I usually leave all the nuts for the squirrels to enjoy. That was until I discovered a recipe for Nocino, an Italian liqueur made from green (unripe) walnuts on Elise Bauer's blog, "Simply Recipes."

Since I recently bottled my spring batch of limoncello, all my glass canisters were empty and ready to be filled up with a new cooking project. It was either this or a big batch of pickles (which frankly would not have been a bad idea either since I'm drowning in cucumbers.) But of course I never can pass up trying something new.

So this weekend I harvested several buckets of walnuts (I actually did leave quite a few on the upper branches to ripen for the squirrels) and set up a Nocino work station outside on my garden table. I love any opportunity to prepare (or eat!) food outdoors.

In Italy, Nocino is typically made in late June when the nuts are still very soft and easy to cut. But like everything in my garden this year, I seem to be running almost a month behind. My walnuts were starting to develop a bit of a shell inside, but luckily it was thin enough that I could still cut and quarter them with my cleaver. It was actually quite a bit easier than zesting all those lemons for the limoncello!

After they were all cut up I put them into my glass canisters with vodka, sugar and spices. I followed Elise's recipe (which she had originally gotten from David Lebovitz' book Room For Dessert) but varied the spices slightly and added in a little star anise for fun.

Almost immediately the green color started to leach out of the walnut skins and into the vodka. Fun science! Apparently it will continue to get darker and darker over the next six weeks until it's a very dark brown.

When I was researching Nocino I also came across recipes for French green walnut liqueurs, green walnut wine as well as pickled green walnuts. Has anyone tried any of these?

I hope I like the outcome of this experiment because the preparation was unbelievably quick and easy. If it's really good, the squirrels are going to be in big trouble next year!

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