One weekend back in May, we saw unripe, young green walnuts at the Alemany Farmer's Market. We snatched up a bunch so we could make vin de noix, or green walnut wine. Good thing we did, too; the green walnuts were gone in a matter of hours. We didn't see them again the following week, or for the rest of the season. Infusing unripe green walnuts in alcohol is a popular pastime in Italy and France. In Italy, it's called nocino and usually has grated orange peel and cloves added to it; in France, it's called vin de noix and is a simple blend of eau de vie, red wine, and sugar. The green walnuts must be infused when they're still soft enough to stick a needle through. In Europe, they're usually harvested in June, but in California, their availability comes a month earlier. The resulting liqueur is thick and sweet, with a very rich and spicy flavor. It's best enjoyed during cold weather, as it's quite warming. More reading on green walnut infusions:
- Married ... with Dinner visits a walnut grove in Napa and makes nocino.
- William Rubel's vin de noix recipe, with step by step photos.
- Lucy's Kitchen vin de noix recipe with caramel and chocolate.
- San Francisco Chronicle feature on green walnut wine.