This weekend saw the final act of my nocino (no-CHEE-no) making that began last summer -- bottling and my version of labeling. In July, I picked green walnuts, chopped and soaked them in a variety of liquors and sugar and spices. Two partially full gallon jugs worth sat for months to steep and oxidize and otherwise maderize. Last month I poured the now chartruse brown liquid off the walnuts and sediment to settle some more and continue aging. Now it's December and time to finish things off.
This was my first attempt to make nocino and I thought I would make two jugs worth instead of just one, to have plenty. But after all this time, I figured I'd get only a little more than 4L of liquid. So I found square 250mL bottles and some t-top corks, which would give me between 16 and maybe 18 bottles. That's not too many if you plan to give a bunch away as gifts and keep several for aging, drinking, cooking (nocino whipped cream, anyone?). This stuff is good. So next year I'll have to make even more.
I began by straining the nocino once more through folded cheese cloth, into a tub big enough to combine both jugs. One jug had more sugar, the other less, but a blend turned out to be best. Then I poured the blend carefully back into a jug to make filling each bottle easier, with the little yellow funnel to keep things tidy. The only real challenge was dealing with foam that came from pouring the liquid, as you can see in the jug. I filled each bottle, waited for the foam to subside, then topped up and put a t-top cork into each one All together, I had 18 bottles.
I rinsed off each bottle and let them sit overnight, before heating up yellow sealing wax in a stove top pot to dip the bottle necks. It was tough to get the wax just the right temperature to adhere well to the plastic tops of the t-corks. Finally I got things right, waxing each bottle and dipping the waxed top into cold water to set quickly and give a little shine.
Then a final wipe down and silver Sharpie to sign each bottle in a way that ended up echoing old port and madeira bottles with their white stencil paint. So how does this nocino taste? Think liquid gingerbread with a kick. It's fairly sweet but appropriate to balance the pleasant bitterness of the walnut tannin. What experience I have tasting others' nocino, age should smooth out any rough edges, though this nocino isn't excessively tannic or bitter as I might have feared, being a newbie. In all, I'm very pleased and there are some lucky people out there who will get a bottle.