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Aug 15, 2009 09:34 AM

cherry-pit liqueur?

so costco had this sale on cherries, 3.67 for 3lb, and i couldn't help but buy two boxes. over the past several days i have had cherries after every meal, clafoutis, and made cherry-pie filling for when i want it and summer is over. that's all good, and i am almost sick of cherries, if that's possible.

thing is - i kept all the cherry pits, hoping to do something liqueur-like with them. does anybody know how to use these? i have a vague recollection that kirsch or kirschwasser is made from them, but have no idea how to do it and what to do with the resulting product. any ideas? :)

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  1. The pits contain a pre-cursor to cyanide. Not sure how much is safe, but in liqueurs only a small percentage of pits are allowed by FDA.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JMF

      ok so, now i'm a bit concerned about the sour cherry ratafia i'm making - it's from the book "uncommon fruits and vegetables" by Elizabeth Schneider. What do you think about the pit ratios...

      The recipie is basically a lb of pitted sour cherries, 2 cups rum, vanilla bean. to that you take the pits, enclose in a bag and crack with a meat pounder - you add that to the cherry / rum mixture and let sit for 1-2 weeks.

      It then gets strained and you add another 1/2 lb cherries (mine were pitted at this point) and let sit for another week or two. You then strain again and add sugar syrup to taste...

      I plan to do the 2nd straining this weekend. Thanks for any advice.

    2. My dad makes Polish cherry-vodka from cherries WITH pits. The idea is to use sour cherries, but if you can find frozen pitted cherries to go with your pits, you might try it. :) When it calls for "alcohol," it means grain alcohol, but you can substitute with something weaker if you have to. You need at least 50% alcohol for the initial extraction - the pits provide some tannin, which is why the aging is necessary (and results in a truly awesome final product), but you won't get any noticeable extraction with, say, regular vodka, rendering the pits moot. Here's the recipe:

      Crush 1 kg tart cherries WITH pits. Add 50 cl alcohol and let age 3 to 4 weeks. Strain and add 1 kg sugar and 50 cl alcohol or alcohol/water mixture, depending on desired final strength.* Age at least 5 to 6 months.

      *My Polish friends would use all alcohol, resulting in final product 100 proof or a little more. Half and half brings in down to about 80-85 proof. The juiciness of the cherries has an obvious importance.

      1. JMF is a distiller, and he is right when he warns you against cherry pits. Cherry pits contain a chemical that becomes toxic when chewed or ingested. If you eat cherries and swallow a few pits you will be fine. If the pit is broken open, more of the chemical is available, and it becomes more dangerous.
        A whole batch of cherry pits, like you have been saving, should be thrown in the garbage and NOT put into a garden compost bin.
        Apple seeds, pear seeds, plum pits, and cashews, also contain these chemicals.

        Kirsch, Kirschwasser, Heering, and Maraschino cherry liqueurs are all made with whole cherries. Distilleries all have secret recipes, but most include SOME cherry pits as a bittering agent, to balance the taste.
        A homemade liqueur made from pits alone, would be undrinkable, regardless of it's toxicity. For someone making homemade liqueur, like Wahooty's dad, a small amount of cherry pits in a whole bottle of homemade liqueur, are probably not going to be too toxic, providing you don't drink too much liqueur at one time.

        Keep in mind that home liqueur makers, and commercial distillers, are making separate concoctions.
        Commercial distillers are, well, DISTILLING.
        Often, ingredients (like cherries and pits) are added to grain spirit, allowed to infuse, and then distilled in a pot, reflux, or fractionating column still, which will leave impurities (and possibly poisons) behind, leaving very pure spirit. Often a second or third infusion is done for finishing. JMF probably know more about this subject.
        At home, you really are making INFUSIONS. Anything you put into your base spirit will be extracted and will remain there. I like to use organic, wax-free fruit for my infusions.
        I am not trained in science, but I can guess that putting pesticide-free fruit into spirits has to be better than sprayed and waxed fruit.

        If you are interested in making your own infusions at home,
        including cherry liqueur,
        here is an excellent resource that I like to use...

        For info on the toxicity of cherry pits...

        2 Replies
        1. re: jerryc123

          thanks for the info and the links. I have made gunther's cranberry liqueur fot the past 2 years and I love it!

          1. re: jerryc123

            can cherries be frozen with the pit in? Our concern is that when frozen the pit can release some sort of toxin into the frozen cherry. Does the drop in tempature speed up the process ? Is this in fact possible?

          2. I have definitely had cherry pit Ratafia as well as peach kernel Ratafia and they are heavenly! True, there's some cyanide risk at volume, but as an accent liqueur, it should be fine. I've survived with only fond memories. The FDA frowns on certain things absolutely since they don't trust people to use things responsibly.

            Distillates of pits/kernels do capture the essence. Modern day creme de noyeau (not the cheap stuff) and others use it.