Edible Monterey Bay

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Get your hands on some green walnuts and make some nocino. In Italy there is a special day for gathering green walnuts called the Feast Day of San Giovanni. Italians like this liqueur in their coffee, where it is called caffè corretto or corrected coffee. It is also poured over gelato or used in place of vanilla extract in making biscotti or simply as an after dinner digestif. The flavor is nutty, slightly bitter, yet sweet, with the taste of vanilla and oak.

All you need is about 30 immature green walnuts chopped into quarters (be sure to use gloves or your hands will turn black!), a sliced open vanilla pod, a few allspice berries, a portion of a cinnamon stick, long strips of zest from 1 large lemon and 1 liter of 50% proof vodka or cane alcohol. (Some people add a handful of coffee beans to the mixture, which is tasty but makes the nocino taste a bit more like kahlua.)

Put all ingredients in a half-gallon jar, add the alcohol and seal the lid well, store in the pantry and shake every so often to blend ingredients.

After at least 8 weeks, filter through cheesecloth, removing the solids and leaving just the liquid.

Next, make a simple syrup by heating 10 ounces of water, 5 ounces of sugar and a squeeze of a lemon. When cool, add to walnut liquid, stir and taste.

At this point the nocino can age in the pantry and can be pulled out for holiday cocktails! Be sure to filter the mixture again by pouring it through a coffee filter, as this will remove bitter tannins that settled.

The flavor mellows as it ages and will keep forever due to alcohol content.

About the author

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Jamie Collins is the owner of Serendipity Farms and has been growing organic row crops at the mouth of Carmel Valley since 2001. She distributes her produce through a CSA, u-picks and farmers’ markets.