In the southwest of France, vin de noix is a fortified wine aperitif that is often associated with Christmas. That’s because 1) it’s delicious, dense and warming like a good glass of porto, and is therefore, welcome during the cold winter months and 2) because it is made with green walnuts, which are available in June. The recipe calls for 6 months to finish a batch, so that adds up to getting a first taste around Christmas time.
Many of the recipes for this old peasant specialty that I have seen specify that the green walnuts be picked on Saint Jean’s Day, June 24 (though to be fair I also have seen recipes specifying green walnuts picked on July 14th for a more patriotic version. In reality, it depends on the climate of your region and the weather pattern of the year).
Anyway, having come into a bag of green walnuts and walnut leaves (gathered not on St. Jean’s day or even Bastille Day, it must be admitted), I decided to try my hand at making some vin de noix
The basic outline of the process is as follows: the walnuts are crushed (I accomplished this with the help of a heavy copper pan), the leaves separated from their stems and washed. Then the walnuts and leaves all go together in a big crock along with a lot of red wine, to macerate for 40 days.
At the end of 40 days, the wine is strained, then fortified with vodka into which has been dissolved sugar. It has been years since the last time I made vin de noix, and, being unable to find any notes I may have made, I am winging it a little bit on this point. So far, the walnuts and leaves are snoozing comfortably together with red wine, a bit of dried orange peel and a couple cinnamon sticks, in a cool cellar. In late July, I will move to the next step. I will pass along more recipe specifics ten
And around Christmas, I will be sharing a few bottles with friends (including my pals at Green Plate Special, who volunteered the fruits of their ancient walnut tree).