There are a lot of times that I get the notion to try something new, but then I just don’t seem to find the gumption to follow through with the project. I find all sorts of excuses about why something will be too hard, or too messy, or just plain ole not worth the effort. How I might mess up, or lack the finesse it takes to accomplish this or that. But just in the nick of time this past summer two unsuspecting people came together to get my butt into gear so I could check one of my projects off the to-do list.
This was a project that was dictated by the season. A project that seemed to involve ancient secrets of being French in rural France. In my mind I wanted to attempt one of those French things that was so otherworldly, so mystic, and so, well, French, that it seems no ordinary person should even think about trying to do it.
My dream was to make vin de noix. Literally, but also misleadingly, “walnut wine.”
The two principle ingredients were also the two major hurdles that seemed to close the project off every time: green walnuts and eau de vie (the French version of moonshine). One, I couldn’t for the life of me picture how one got a hard green walnut integrated into liquids that would turn into a delicious aperitif. People would say with an air of mystery and authority “oh you have to gather the walnuts at just the perfect moment”. But I could not decipher when that moment was. Secondly, I knew just where to get the eau de vie. But I imagined it to be a secret club where you had to have a secret knock to be allowed into the deep dark halls of this maybe not quite so legal operation.
Then by chance I mentioned this dream to one neighbor and he said that if I could come up with 40 walnuts in the next few days he would walk me through the process.
When I mentioned this dilemma to a second neighbor she said she’d gather up the 40 walnuts out of her orchard that very afternoon. And sure enough that evening she arrived with a basket full of golfball-sized green walnuts. with the aviso: “Use them in the next 24 hours or you’ll loose the magic!”
With the clock ticking I gathered up all the ingredients on the list given to me by Jean Pierre. He arrived and supervised the creation of the magic potion. Turns out that those seemingly rock-like green walnuts are as easy to cut as a stick of butter and we had the brew stirred up in less than 30 minutes!
Now why had I made up all those silly excuses?! Sometimes you have to get to the bend in the tunnel before you see the light.
Now not only is this project checked off the “to experience” list, but I also have a delicious vin de noix to share on cold winter evenings. But more than anything I have the pride of having let go of the excuses, the pride of accomplishing a simple task that I had allowed to seem way to magical. Now I can wave the magic wand. I have that pride to carry me on to the next hurdles that will seem too magical , too beyond my reach. With, of course, a little help from my friends.
Jean Pierre’s vin de noix recipie
4 liters of Bergerac wine (dry red wine)
20 walnuts cut into quarters ( picked between the feast of St Jean and Bastille day depending on the year’s weather and the ripeness, but not too ripe)
700 grams sugar
90 cl eau de vie (highest proof you can find)
*combine in a ceramic lined container
*stir once a day for two months