First, The Bride is sorry to tell you that it's too late this year to make walnut liqueur. It turns out that the walnuts need to be green, as in immature, not simply green, as in encased by hull. The French traditionally pick them on the feast of St. Jean, which is June 24th or thereabouts. In the mountains (pays de Montagne) of France, the nuts are picked on Bastille Day. In California late May or early June is better. So, make your best guess.
Second, The Bride warns you to wear latex gloves and use an non-staining cutting board because the walnut juices stain a deep, indelible brown. If you don't take this precaution, don't blame The Bride, she tried to warn you.
Thirdly, the COG and The Bride have made many variations of these home-made liqueurs over the years. It's lots of fun and we think everyone should try it. One hint: you need to pre-plan to accumulate really large containers and bottles with screw-tops.
Recipe 1: from the San Francisco Chronicle, by Georgeanne Brennan
Vin de Noix
35 green walnuts
7 750-ml bottles dry red wine (inexpensive, yet drinkable red wine-Cote du Rhone, Cote de Provence, Syrah, Merlot and Zinfandel are good choices.)
1 quart vodka
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
With a small mallet or hammer, strike walnuts hard enough to crack open green outer covering. Put them in a glass jar or crock large enough to hold them and wine. Pour wine over them, cover and store in a cool, dark place. Let stand for 40 days.
Then, using a fine-mesh sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth, strain wine into a large, clean, dry crock or pot. Discard walnuts.
Pour vodka into a nonreactive pot or bowl. Add sugar and stir until it has dissolved, about 10 minutes. Pour this mixture into wine and stir well. Using a funnel and a ladle, fill bottles with now-fortified wine to within 1 1/2 to 2 inches from top. Push in a cork or otherwise seal.
Makes approximately eight 750-ml bottles
Recipe 2: translated by The Bride from the French cookbook Vins Aperitifs Maison
Vin de Noix
5 liters of vin rouge
25 young walnuts, picked on the feast of St. Jean
1 kilo (2.2 pounds) granulated sugar
1/2 liter of vodka (in France they'd use eau de vie, but here, vodka substitutes nicely)
5 grams of bitter orange peel
a Tablespoon of plain tea
Clean the nuts and cut them into morsels and put them into a dame-Jean with the red wine and other ingredients. I have no idea what a dame-Jean is and babelfish translates is as 'dame-jean'. My best bet is that it's a demi-john, or other very large container.
Bitter Orange peel -- hmmm. In England you can buy bitter oranges for marmelade. I've never seen them here. Maybe grapefruit, or just plain orange peel.
Let everything macerate for 6 weeks, agitating it frequently, to stir it up.
Filter carefully (we've used coffee filters or clean linen towels placed in a sieve) and put in bottles to age. Place the bottles in the shade, or better still in your 'cave' or in the 'chat-bouton', if you live in the Luberon. Which you don't, but I thought you'd like to know that its a little room, like a pantry, situated on the north side of the house, often under the stairs, well ventilated but sunless.
Recipe 3: from the San Francisco Chronicle again.
Nocino, an Italian variant of Vin de Noix, sans vin
25 green walnuts
1 quart vodka
2 cups granulated sugar
Zest of one lemon
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
Cut walnuts into quarters and put them in a large, clean jar with vodka, sugar, lemon zest, cloves and cinnamon. Close jar and setunder sun for 60 days.
For syrup, combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Store covered in refrigerator. Add syrup to steeping nuts to ensure they are covered at all times. If necessary, make additional syrup, but not to exceed 1/2 cup. At end of 60 days, add any remaining syrup, then strain liquid through a fine mesh sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth. Discard nuts, lemon, cloves and cinnamon. Bottle liqueur and seal.
Makes about 1 quart