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Aug 7, 2004 06:16 PM

Sour Cherry pits... boiled...

  • m

I decided to try to get something out of sour cherry pits. I should have posted a question *before* taking action, but this is what I've done so far:
I washed and crushed the pits (about 2/3 of a cup) and boiled them in about 4 quarts of water for about half an hour.
Now there's a pot full of very aromatic water on my stovetop, and I don't know what on earth to do next or even what to try to achieve!
Any suggestions?

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  1. Pits of some fruits contain cyanide, or release cyanide when cooked or eaten. In Europe, at least in olden days, one of every 100 (or so) almonds was a "bitter almond" which had more flavor, but contained cyanide (the flavor comes from a compund containing cyanide). In sufficiently small amounts cyanide can be metabolized (it does not accumulate like arsenic or mercury) so in the long run it is harmless. The almond is the "pit" or kernel of a fruit that looks remarkably like a peach, and almond is related to the peach/apricot family (and to cherries).

    Some time ago there was a "cancer cure" made from peach pits (Laetrile?) which has been outlawed as ineffective and harmful -- it contained cyanide.

    Some Italian cookies (amaretto) are flavored with ground up toasted apricot kernels. However, I believe the cyanide compound is volatile and would vaporize in the cooking and baking.

    Bitter almonds are outlawed in the US I believe. "Oil of bitter almonds" is quite poisonous. Apparently recipes with almonds in the US are pale in flavor compared to the ones made in Europe (at least in olden times) and that's why many almond-based recipes call for adding almond extract.

    Good luck with the "Pit soup." I think it would be a good accompaniment to fugu.

    I hope you have life insurance.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Joel Teller

      I've seen packets at Trader Joes that appear to be toasted bitter almonds. Unfortunately I don't recall the exact wording, but noticed them because I had long been under the impression that bitter almonds were illegal to sell. But toasting does supposedly disable the poison, so maybe selling them toasted is OK? Might have to buy some next time and see if they are the real deal.

    2. This is not meant to be mean, but I think the best thing you can get from cherry pits is compost.

      1. Crushed cherry pits can be wrapped in cheesecloth and used as a sachet to steep their flavor in fresh fruit compotes or the cream for ice cream. The sachet is a wonderful aromatic that deepens the flavor of the dessert. Noyau ice cream is an ice cream made from the kernals of apricot pits, and it's fabulous. It only takes a few to impart the flavor.

        I don't have any ideas for your water, unless you want to strain it, make a simple syrup, and use it to flavor drinks or syrups...??

        1. s

          Don't know about boiling them, but the dried pits are ground to a powder called mahleb and used to flavor cookies and such in the Middle East.

          1. Right idea, wrong solvent.

            Toasting (or boiling) would destroy the almond flavored cyanogenic compounds. You'd probably have to eat a bushel to get ill.

            Crack the pits and immerse in vodka, with sugar. I'd go with a cup per pint. Let it stew a few weeks in the fridge. The alcohol will dissolve the tasty amygdalin compounds. Don't heat, or you'll release oils.

            Look up Maraskino or Maraschino liqueur.

            You could use the pits in Marzipan afterward.