Noyaux is French for ‘nut liqueur’ which makes me wonder if the beech nuts (beechmast) were ever used to make a liqueur, as well as the leaves? Here is a tried and tested leaf noyaux recipe and an experimental beech nut nocino!
Beech Leaf Noyaux
A bag of young green beech leaves
1 litre of gin
100 g sugar or honey
Gather your beech leave in early May when they are new, young and green. Fill about two thirds of a 1.5 litre preserving jar with leaves. Cover with gin. Close the lid and leave for two weeks. The colour should have changed to a fresh yellow-green and smell a little nutty. Strain after 2 or 3 weeks and compost the leaves.
Dissolve the sugar or honey in a little water and add to the strained gin along with a barman’s measure of brandy. Bottle and keep for 6 weeks – if you can wait that long!
Beech Nut Nocino
1 litre of grappa (vodka or other white spirit 40 – 45 % vol.)
250g to 400 g sugar (depending how sweet you like liqueurs) 50-60 unripe beech nuts (more or less)
2 roasted dandelion roots
Gather the beech nuts when still green in June before they go hard and brown in the Autumn. Roughly chop the nuts and put into a preserving jar. Pour the alcohol over them, adding the dandelion root. Seal the jar tightly and leave on a sunny windowsill for 4 weeks.
After 4 weeks, strain off the liquid, discarding the nuts. Gently heat the sugar in a little hot water until all the crystals have dissolved. Add the resulting thin syrup to the filtered alcohol. Bottle and leave for another 4 weeks.