When we moved into our apartment in Zagreb, our very kind Croatian landlady gave us, as a house-warming gift, a bottle of home-made walnut liqueur her mother had made the previous year. Thus, I discovered the bitter sweet, highly addictive, liquid heaven that is walnut liqueur a.k.a orahovica.
Walnut liqueur is dark in colour, aromatic and quite fiery in taste. It is made from unripe (still green) walnuts and lots of good quality alcohol. Over the years I have made several fruit liqueurs from cherries and sour cherries, strawberries blueberries and cranberries, with walnuts thought I never tried it. When I tasted Zrinka's orahovica I was hooked by the rich walnut, coffee and vanilla aroma which becomes spicy and bitter-sweet with a long coffee finish when it hits your palette.
I asked for the recipe and in June last year I raided one of the dozen walnut trees growing around our building and gathered a bucketful of small green walnuts. A word to the wise...wear gloves when picking and handling the walnuts, their tannins are so strong they are going to colour your skin brown for a very long time.
I found it very difficult to cut the walnuts, they are hard and slippery and I really treasure all my fingers, so I crushed them with a stone.
I used rakija - the Croatian version of a non-anise flavoured grape brandy, which is almost the same as the Greek Tsipouro or the Italian Grappa - but you can use very good quality vodka if you cannot find any of the above.
1 litre of grape brandy (without anise for example rakija, tsipouro, grappa) or good quality vodka
15 large whole green walnuts, crushed with a stone
1 whole lemon, quartered
1 vanilla pod, halved
200 g white sugar
10 toasted espresso coffee grains
Mix all the ingredients in a large glass jar, cover and leave it exposed to the sun for 40 days. Try to shake the jar every couple of days for the sugar to dissolve. The liquid will turn dark brown gradually as time passes.
When it’s ready to bottle, filter the liqueur through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter and pour into a clean bottle. This liqueur will keep for years stored in a cool, dry place, that is if you don't drink it all in one go....