Back in late June, Samin Nosrat published an article in the New York Times, How to Unlock the Secret Flavor Hidden at the Apricots Core.
In it, she waxes poetic about the beauty of that blessed summer fruit and its useful pit. “I pocket every one I encounter . . . at some point every summer I wake up to find apricot pits strewn in my bed. I find them in my pockets and at the bottom of my purse. I find them stuck in the lint trap, where I gingerly dig them out, free them of debris and return them to my pockets so I can add them to the stash in my freezer.”
Nosrat then goes on to describe taking the hoarded bag of pits outside where she “dump[s] everything out on a towel” set upon the concrete and uses a hammer to—as gingerly as possible—smash each pit open to reveal the creamy-tinted kernel, the prize: the noyaux.
Tied up in a bag and added to a pot of simmering apricot jam, the noyaux will impart their intoxicating aroma, their “faint scent of almonds and flowers” into the jam.
The liberated noyaux may also be added to a jar of booze and left for a few months to create an extract unlike any other.
The only problem is that the noyaux of the apricot—as well as all other pitted fruits to my knowledge (but I could be wrong about the all bit, so don’t hold me to it)—contain trace amounts of a compound called Amygdalin which converts to cyanide in the human body. Fun times!
Thankfully, high heat destroys the amygdalin leaving one free to enjoy its unique flavor and aroma.
Nosrat gives two recipes in the article, one for an Apricot Jam in which the freshly-liberated noyaux are put into a jelly bag or a cheesecloth pouch and added to the pot of fruit and sugar, the heat of cooking taking care of any poisoning fears.
The other recipe, and the one I was—am—most excited about is for a Noyaux Extract. For this, it becomes necessary to toast the dry noyaux at 300° F (definitely pre-heat your oven for real this time) for 10 minutes to kill the amygdalin. Added to a pint jar filled with brandy or vodka and left in a cool dark place for three months, the result will be a very special extract to add to your repoirtie.
Now, you may be thinking, thanks Jess, this is all well and good but APRICOT SEASON IS OVER LADY. True, BUT, as of yesterday, my Noyaux Extract was ready to use. I added a teaspoon to a simple Raspberry snaking cake and it did, indeed, do what was promised. It confounded those I shared the cake with, unable to quite name the flavor blooming in their mouths. I now have quite the supply, and plan on using in anything I can. And just like Vanilla Extract, Noyaux Extract can be replenished. At the end of each apricot season, Nosrat strains out the old noyaux and adds the years new crop, topping off the booze as needed.
All that said, this may not do you any good until next summer (or if you can find a bounty of whole apricots, pits intact), but perhaps you’ll tuck it away in the back of your mind for next year.
And in my case, the Victorian/Romantic/Morbid/Witchy-Scientist in me loves that fine line between poison and pleasure.