Karydaki Liqueur (pr. kah-rhi-DHA-khi lee-KHER) is a homemade Greek alcoholic drink made with tender green walnuts which are steeped in alcohol for a certain period of time.
It is then combined with syrup to sweeten it and turn it into a dark magical blend.
Karydaki Liqueur is is easy to make but takes time to macerate and then mature.
A similar alcoholic drink in Italy is called Nocino.
Liqueurs are usually made by steeping fruit, flowers, herbs, spices, etc., in rectified spirit (95 – 97 % alcohol by volume).
If that is difficult to find you can use vodka, brandy, ouzo or tsikoudia, tsipouro, raki, zivania, but with less alcohol 36 – 45% alcohol (72 – 90 US proof).
If you don’t know what tsikoudia, tsipouro, raki or zivania are, they are similar to Italian grappa.
You can read more instructions on making homemade liqueurs in my post for Easy Cherry Pit Liqueur with Cherry Syrup.
What does Karydaki mean?
Karydi (in Greek καρύδι) means walnut.
Karydaki is a diminutive of karydi and is a term used in Greece to describe the walnuts when they are still unripe and green.
They are regular walnuts, but just picked before the nut shell starts to form and harden — when they are about 1 inch (2 1 /2 cm) wide.
In Greece, the traditional time to pick Green Walnuts is around end of spring or summer, depending on the altitude of the area where the walnut trees grow.
In Argolida, where I live, I pick them around the end of May or early June. In Cyprus it is tradition to make them around Pentecost (Kataklysmou), which is celebrated 49 days after Easter.
In Italy, Nocino it is tradition to make it on the 24th June , the nativity of San Giovanni Battista or John the Baptist.
What are green walnuts good for?
- They can be used for a sweet preserve called Karydaki Glyko, which are preserved whole in syrup;
- they can be used to make alcoholic beverages such as “karydaki liqueur”;
- they can be made into jam;
- they can be pickled in vinegar.
How I made my Karydaki Liqueur
There are many recipes for making Karydaki Liqueur but I have created my very own version of this wonderful alcoholic drink.
First of all we have to pick the walnuts. If you or someone you know, do not have a walnut tree it will be very difficult to buy green walnuts.
The walnuts are washed and drained. We then cut them in two or four pieces (be sure to wear rubber gloves because the walnut juice will stain your hands for weeks and it won’t come off easily.
Put the green walnuts in bowl and add the alcohol. I used Tsipouro. You can use plain tsipouro but as I already had tsipouro in which fragrant geraniums were steeping and another one with cherry pits, to make the equivalent liqueurs, I decided to use both, for extra flavour.
Apart from Tsipouro I also added some red fortified wine called Commandaria.
I also added some cane sugar and spices (I used cinnamon stick, cloves and allspice berries).
Store in glass jars with a lid (I used two 2 litre jars).
The jars are sealed with the lid and then they rest outside, in a sunny spot for 40 (or more) days for the walnuts to become black and for all the ingredients to flavour the alcohol.
Every two or three days, I gave the bottles a quick shake, so that the sugar dissolves.
If you skip the sugar, you don’t need to shake the bottles nor leave them in the sun. Just store them in the closet for 40 days and then add the syrup. However, the amount of syrup added in stage two will have to increase.
Stage two of making the Walnut preserve
After the waiting period of 40 days, the walnuts and spices are strained and discarded. We then make a syrup and when it cools, we combine it with the alcoholic black liquid.
Note: As it was the first time I made it, the amount of syrup I used did not make it as sweet as I wanted, so I made an additional amount of syrup, which I later on added. The recipe includes the entire amount of syrup used.
What Does Karydaki Liqueur Taste Like?
Surprisingly for a nut based drink, it does not taste like walnuts. The flavour is not overly sweet (this can become sweeter if you prefer by adding more sugar or honey, if you prefer) and the spices and wine remind you of Christmas and mulled wine.
Is Karydaki Liqueur an Apéritif or a Digestif?
Karydaki liqueur is usually served as an after-dinner digestif, to aid digestion.
- 14 green walnuts
- 750 ml commandaria wine
- 2 jars (1 litre each) tsipouro with cherries
- 1 jar (1 litre) tsipouro with fragrant geraniums
- 1 – 2 cinnamon sticks
- 12 cloves
- 10 – 12 all-spice berries
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 cups water
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- Wash and dry the walnuts.
- Use a sharp chef's knife to halve the walnuts lengthwise.
- Put them in a bowl and add the wine and tsipouro.
- Add the spices and sugar.
- Mix the ingredients well and put them in glass jars.
- Close the lid tightly and place the jars in a sunny spot for about forty days.
- You can give the jar a little shake every now and then to redistribute the ingredients.
- Drain the walnuts and keep the liquid only.
- Prepare the syrup. Put all ingredients, except the lemon juice,
in a pot and stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Bring to boil and stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
- Boil for 5 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice, stir and remove from the heat. Set aside to cool.
- Combine the walnut liquid with the syrup.
- Store in clean, sterilized bottles.
- After a couple of months you can drink it but if you let it mellow for
at least a year or even more, you get much better results.
Nutrition InformationYield 5 litres Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 877Total Fat 6gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 0mgSodium 27mgCarbohydrates 187gFiber 16gSugar 161gProtein 5g
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