Monday, August 30, 2010

Noyaux Liqueur

Can I tell you this weird thing I did? You might frown upon this, but I infused some brandy with apricot and cherry pits. I've learned that this is what generally flavors almond extract, these seeds from fruit in the almond family, along with almonds. Instead of composting my pits, I decided to make a liqueur.

Why would you frown? Because there's debate on whether those pits (or the kernels, to be exact) are okay to ingest. They contain amygdalin, which breaks down into prussic acid or Hydrogen cyanide, a poison. When I was a child I remember my mom warning me to not eat the peach pit's kernel even though it looked like a tasty almond, because it contained cyanide. That scared the bejesus out of me. But, through heating or soaking, this poison is eliminated. There is a liqueur called créme de noyaux, made with these kernels. And I was intrigued by this post on making almond extract; I just dispensed with the whole cracking open the kernels thing. Throwing pits in a jar to make a tasty liqueur? Sounds like my kind of thing. Interestingly, apricot kernels and the amygdalin they contain are touted as a cure for cancer. I did some research and came to the conclusion that my mason jar full of pits wasn't a problem. I think I read that you'd have to eat 72 kernels to even get sick. So.

I filled a quart mason jar with the pits, both apricot and cherry (which also is in the prunus family), and topped it with brandy. A month or so later, after sitting in the dark basement and being agitated every so often, it turned into the most amazing smelling brew. I am partial to the smell of almonds, so it was swoon-worthy. Smelled like almond extract. I should have kept it where it was, but I added a bit too much simple syrup to it and diluted it a bit. Next year, when I make it again, I will leave it intact.

What am I going to do with all these liqueurs I have been concocting? Well, I don't sip cordials all day long, even though I should. I used some of this liqueur in canning some pears. Like brandied fruit, but a little lighter. Post to follow!


  1. Oh yum! I just read Wild Yeast's blog about making noyaux ice cream and am thoroughly intrigued. chalk this one up as a "next year" for me, too!

  2. I love the smell of most things almond. The last time I made a cake (almond), it smelled so good. How about using your liqueurs in cake glazes?

  3. I'm an almond junkie as well - can't wait to hear how you use this! I second the cake glaze idea. Yowza!

  4. Val - Ooo! I think that ice cream sounds amazing!

    Denise - That is a brilliant idea. Thank you! Or how about soaking cakes and THEN glazing them?

    Annette - I could live on marzipan!

  5. oh, I want to sip cordials all day! This sounds amazing - even worth the risk for those of us who are completely addicted to almond flavoring!!!

  6. Rebecca - Aw, I knew I liked you for a reason!

  7. Oh man! I just threw out a bag of cherry pits I had been keeping for just this purpose. I had been dithering on the "will they kill me with their cyanide" question and decided to play it safe. So....have you tasted this? And you're hear to tell us about it?

  8. Doris - Yes! I'm here! In my spotty research I read that roasting them, or cooking them for twenty minutes, or long soaking, removes the prussic acid, so I went for it. I also read that you'd have to eat 70 raw kernels in order to get sick from them.

    So, you know, I don't jump out of planes or anything, but I do drink strange possibly poisonous fruit pit liqueurs that I make. Each to their own, right?

  9. Cyanide, believe it or not, is a dietary expectation within biologically rational quantities. Cyanide within the body is transformed into another substance called, 'thiocyanate'. Sickle cell anemia is a thiocyanate deficiency disease. Do you see what I'm getting at? Hundreds of foods we consume daily contain dietary cyanide. Provided that we don't overwhelm our natural capacities to process it safely, there is no danger. Cyanide is not an accumulative toxin.

    That said, it is totally possible to eat too many apricot kernels and feel quite unwell as a result, but a fatal dose is a very large quantity and highly unlikely. So unlikely, in fact, that it has never been medically reported in a documented, verifiable way. That is a fact that should surprise anyone vaguely familiar with this controversy.

    If willing, have a read of my own blog at

    1. Alex, thank you very much for your thoughtful and learned comment. I especially appreciate your ability to paraphrase my thoughts exactly on this subject, neatly and intelligently.