(This entry contains the actual recipe I used. Vin de Noix Part I deals with getting the actual nuts.)
Ooooo am I excited to try this out at last!
I had my first taste of Vin de Noix at an organic bed and breakfast in northern France, sitting in front of the fire with my man on an autumn afternoon. The proprietor, originally from the south, proudly took out the special bottle of secret recipe from his grandfather and, though I definitely had my doubts about this thick almost tar-like mahogany-colored syrup he was pouring out for us, as soon as I tasted it, I fell absolutely in love and just had to try to make it myself. So, here I am in Berlin with a bagful of green walnuts.
There are loads of recipes online, but a decent standard recipe that seems to achieve good results across the board is this one below, adapted from William Rubel and Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook. You can mix and match with whatever you prefer or have on hand (once you actually get a hold of the green walnuts, of course), and decide for yourself whether you want to feature the wine or feature the liquor. I decided to try a few each way and see how it turns out when all is said and done. Anything that winds up too strong can be diluted with wine.
Green walnuts stain! Wear gloves. Seriously, they really turn everything black. Be prepared to make a royal mess, generally speaking. It’s messy, messy business.
Vin de Noix (French Green Walnut Liqueur)
For a recipe that features wine (as opposed to liquor) in one big batch, you’ll need:
- around 40 young walnuts, rinsed and quartered (warning! some insist it absolutely must be an odd number walnuts!!! I don’t know what happens if you use even numbers. Something terrible, most likely. I used an even number).
- 1 liter alcohol such as brandy, marc, eau de vie, a mild rum, or vodka — some even use grain alcohol like Everclear, but this yields, not exactly surprisingly, a much stronger result.
- 5 liters drinkable but not pricey red wine, or even a full bodied white Burgundy to top things off. I’m trying some with white, some with red. There’s a great cheapo red in Germany that is perfect for this (Dornfelder), but finding a good cheap white was a little harder because Riesling would be all wrong for this.
- 1 kg sugar. I’m also doing a few bottles with maple syrup.
One or more of the following are often added, but are optional:
– 12 walnut leaves.
– Zest of 1 orange or lemon.
– 4 to 8 cloves.
– 2 vanilla beans.
– 2 cinnamon sticks.
– 1 T. Szechuan peppercorns (to each his own!).
– 1 star anise.
– 3 tsp. dust from the rainbow colored poops of a pygmy unicorn.
– just kidding about that last one.
Note on proportions: You can also choose to make a smaller amount, and measure out per bottle, like what I did. I averaged 6 walnuts per 1.5 liter bottle, adjusted the other ingredients accordingly (1 tsp peppercorns, 1/3 vanilla bean, 2 cloves, etc.). Regarding vodka to wine ratio, I tried it a couple different ways because I really wasn’t sure, myself, what I’d prefer. Most bottles were 50:50, but a few were 25:75 and v/v.
1. Pick the walnuts in late June when the walnuts are well formed, but can still be pierced with a needle. Place all of the ingredients in an 8 quart (8 liter) non-reactive container with a lid, like a large glass jar, but don’t seal it up airtight; it needs a little air to oxidize and turn its characteristic dark rich brown. Store the mixture in a cool dark place (some insist on a sunny bright place, but I’m going to go for cool and dark, myself) for 6 to 8 weeks, shaking or stirring occasionally. You can taste it now and again to check, but it probably won’t taste like much until around day 40. If you are using spices, you might want to check a bit sooner and remove anything that threatens to take over the flavor.
2. By day 40 or so, the vin de noix will be considerably darker. Give it a taste and adjust the sugar if you want the drink to be sweeter (adding simple syrup might be easiest). Filter it through a cheesecloth, bottle it, label it with the year and store in a cool dark place until the cold weather! It will keep developing for years.
You definitely don’t need to use fancy ingredients. Most people use a big covered ceramic or glass bowl or other container for the initial storage time. We decided to use a bunch of very very very clean milk bottles. After they’re filtered, they’ll get poured into prettier bottles for gifts and storage.
I decided to put big ugly labels on each bottle because the ingredients and proportions for each were slightly different and I want to know exactly which recipe works best for next time. This will give me room to scribble tasting notes later, too.
Some insist the batch has to sit in garden prior to filtering, others prefer shade. We decided to keep them in the kitchen in an accessible little corner where we could easily shake them every so often and take peeks.
For the one clear bottle we have, I used a white wine mixture, below. It should be interesting to see the color develop over time. So here’s Day 1!
My first check will be in 20 days, to make sure the spices are on the right track. I’ll definitely post an update so be sure to check back if you’re curious about how it turns out.