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!
PS I recently discovered a jar I’d forgotten. So it was left ‘on the leaf’ for six months. I’ve strained it off and it is still excellent. So don’t worry too much about timing!
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.