Monday, June 18, 2012

California Walnut Wine

Walnut Wine version one
 On June 7th my green walnuts arrived.  Fresh, cool, with a slight sheen of moisture, smelling like an entire walnut orchard in a box: acrid, pungent. If you've ever walked amid an orchard of walnut trees on a warm late spring day, you'll know what I mean.

On June 9th, I made walnut wine.  Three slightly different ways, but basically following this recipe on Lucy's blog.

I've been wanting to make walnut wine, or vin de noix as it's known in France, for about 4 years but the timing was never right.  Green walnuts are picked and shipped around the first week in June here in California, sometimes mid-June in the foothills if the weather is cool, and they cannot sit around waiting until one can "get to them".

Green walnuts do not wait.  They age and get wrinkles.  They get dark blemishes.  The green husk can turn mushy, the center changes from embryonic to, well, more like a nut.

You don't want any of these things to happen.

No, your green walnuts should be so young and nubile that you can stick a pin through them and these babies passed the pin test with flying colors.

Well, this year the harmonic convergence of time, ingredients and nuts came together and my first attempt at making walnut wine is now in process.  And after making up the first jar, I took some liberties, made a few tweaks.  You will too once you get the hang of this.  I thought of so many more possibilities after cutting that last walnut and placing it in its jar that I've already made notes for next year's bottling.

Walnut Wine, Jars #1 and 2

The two jars above hold 3 liters each so I doubled Lucy's ingredients list and more than doubled the amount of walnuts per jar because I had a total of 56 walnuts and wanted to use them all in this endeavor.

Jar #3 in the middle of this photo holds 2 liters

For the 3-liter jars I made the following adjustments (follow the basic recipe here):

Jar #1:  20 quartered green walnuts,  1 liter vodka, 1 bottle white Bordeaux wine to top off the jar,  3 cloves, 2 star anise and 4 Sichuan peppercorns, 3 thick slices Cara Cara orange.

Jar #2:  Same amount of nuts, California Rare White, which is a blend of Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Marsanne and Semillion, 5 cloves, 1 star anise, 4 Sichuan peppercorns, 1/2 cup maple syrup plus 1/3 cup vanilla sugar (home made), 4 orange slices, and only 1/3 of a vanilla bean.

Jar #3 (the 2-liter one):  15 nuts (yeah, it should be 16 but one had some damage so I tossed it), 700 ml vodka, 3/4 cup coconut palm sugar, 1 star anise, 4 clove, 1/2 of a vanilla bean, 2 slices of orange and topped it off with the white Bordeaux.

These lovelies are sitting in our cool wine vault.  I visit them often, cooing sweet nothings to their impervious glass walls.

I'll be bottling them around the 9th of August.  Check back for an update.

This year's walnuts came from Haag Farms in Esparto, California, a few miles up the road from where Mr CC and I lived almost 20 years ago.

And for comparison, another source I hope to try next year is Clary Ridge Ranch, where the green walnut harvest is shipped about 2 weeks later than valley nuts.

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