Foraging Fail, Week Ending 12/29/2019

In which our brave heroine merges both her foraging series and her purge log!

The story began well. I was so tickled I remembered ON CHRISTMAS DAY to sample nocino, just like I had blogged about way back in June when I started the black walnut liqueur.  

I chilled a small amount in the fridge overnight and poured dainty samples for my husband and I to sip, as described in Preserving Wild Foods (whose recipe I was using…ish).

Homemade nocino for Christmas cheer!
Homemade nocino for Christmas cheer!

It was awful. Not the worst thing I had ever tasted, but definitely in the ball park!

I checked back over my notes, and realized the errors of my ways. I had missed the “straining date” (40 days in the recipe) by over a month! Presumably this led to the overwhelming bitterness and unpleasant anise-y flavor. I hoped a few more sips would improve the experience (this often works for me and Manhattans) but alas. It was not to be. I gingerly poured the remains of my glass down the drain and tucked the 1/2 gallon jar of nocino back into its dark corner.

Also? The nocino leaves the oh-yeah-black-walnut brown stain on any surface onto which it happens to spill. Oops?

So now I am unsure what to do. There are a slew of cocktails online with nocino as an ingredient, but I can’t see using up perfectly good booze in an attempt to make my nocino palatable. Maybe it will eventually mellow …. like it just needs longer because it steeped longer? But how long will that take, if it ever actually does become drinkable? I get that a good nocino is “pleasantly bittersweet” but nothing about my particular results can be called “pleasant.” At all. In any sense of the word. Maybe I should have used a good vodka instead of Everclear. Did I ever add the two cups of water? My notes don’t say.

Which brings me to my blog series crossover:

Purge log day 3: Do I dare to dump the inky-black nocino liqueur?
Purge log day 3: Do I dare to dump the inky-black nocino liqueur?

How do I get rid of this thing? I don’t have any “I don’t like you but feel like I owe you a gift”-type acquaintances. I can’t exactly take it to the thrift store for resale! I can’t throw it away because isn’t just a cheap tchotchke I picked up at a store or received from a neighbor as a Christmas gift. I put time, materials and creative energy into this. It’s a pretty public project to just dump the whole thing down the drain! Not to mention, I doubt Everclear would be good for my septic system.

Believe it or not, “What do I do with my foraged liqueur” is a dilemma I face pretty frequently. Like the pawpaw liqueur I tried making last fall or the knotweed liqueur from this spring or come to think of it the milkweed liqueur, mentioned briefly back in June.

Oh, and I made a black locust liqueur some time ago, and just never blogged about it. … or drank it, for that matter.

(OK, I actually did throw out the pawpaw liqueur. Any shred of pulp that poked past the top of the vodka oxidized a muddy brown color, and shaking the jar just let other areas of pulp touch the oxygen and turn brown too. It looked so unappealing I had no hesitation tossing it.)

As you read this, you probably think all I do is drink! But that is part of the problem – I never drink liqueurs or mix cocktails with them, so they, um, just sit there and take up space on my shelf. I feel this reflects poorly on my creativity because on the one hand, my answer to many small random bits of foraged food is “Make a liqueur with it!” (This almost happened to my recent persimmons as well.)  And on the other hand, once I have the liqueur, I never know what to do with it! (Or in some cases, never want to do anything with it.)

There are plenty of resources out there for wild crafted booze and cocktails, by the way. Some of my favorites include Marie Viljoen’s Forage, Harvest, Feast; Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han; and Wildcrafted Cocktails by Ellen Zachos. Among many others. This is a very trendy subject, which makes it all the more frustrating when I make a foraged liqueur with such a disappointing result!

Do I keep it? Dump it? What would you do?

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  1. I think disposal has to be the correct response here. Sometimes you just have to put something down as a learning experience. Not all experiments work. I wonder if it would burn? Can you use it in an oil lamp?
    Thanks for posting real results, not just pretending it was lovely, or ignoring it!

    • I have received some very creative suggestions – including using it as a wood stain, or maybe lighter fluid! Maybe I can try the oil lamp idea too, we have PLENTY of the nocino to use. I have added water to it in the meantime and maybe – just maybe – after another month of mellowing it may be drinkable? We shall find out!

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