During the spring of 2020 I switched to a new CSA on the advice of a friend who raved about it. I liked the idea that the vegetables came from one farm and the fruit from one orchard, unlike my prior CSA. From the first pick up to the last, the quality, variety, and flavor surpassed my expectations. I fell in love with the plums especially—from small sweet purple Italian sugar plums to larger juicy yellow Shiros, I just couldn’t get enough.
Food waste in the kitchen has always been a concern for me, but the pandemic brought new awareness to the matter. I felt more connected to the new CSA—we got an email the day before the pickup with a note from the farmer giving us updates on how the weather affected his crops so the thought of wasting what I knew was grown with care and a whole lot of effort was palpable.
I never gave a second thought to using pits of stone fruits until reading the cookbook Cooking with Scraps by Lindsay-Jean Hard, which is where the inspiration for this recipe came from.
Stone fruit trees and almond trees are in the same family, so the stone fruit pit lends a pleasing nutty flavor to liqueurs, extracts, or infusions for ice creams or jams. This Stone Fruit Pit Liqueur takes a month to infuse, but you’ll have enough for around 10 cocktails once it’s ready. Then you can impress your friends with new cocktail party offerings or simply have a small glass on the rocks to wind down a busy day.
What Is Stone Fruit Pit Liqueur?
The kernel inside the pits of stone fruits (apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, and cherries) are called noyaux in French. The process for making Stone Fruit Pit Liqueur involves roasting the pits and then smashing them open to reveal the kernel, which is then steeped in alcohol and sweetened to produce the prized almond-flavored liqueur.
For my recipe, I use the entire pit, not just the kernel. I also include fresh thyme sprigs in both the vodka steeping process and the simple syrup that sweetens it for added aroma and flavor.
How to Work With Stone Fruit Pits
The kernels contain small amounts of the chemical amygdalin, which if ingested can turn into cyanide. However, you would need to crush and then eat 30 to 200 pits (depending on the type of fruit it came from) to feel the effects. Roasting the pits, before making the liqueur, as we do in this recipe, kills off any of the harmful chemicals, so you can set your mind at ease.
Tips and Tricks for Stone Fruit Pit Liqueur
As you graze or bake your way through the spring and summer bounty of stone fruits, pop the pits into a resealable plastic bag and freeze them until you have enough to make this recipe. When you’re ready to make the liqueur, let them thaw a bit on a silicone baking mat on a baking sheet before roasting them. The baking mat keeps them from sticking to the pan or staining it. I don’t bother washing off any bits of fruit left on the pits—I figure it can only add more flavor, but feel free to rinse them if you desire.
You don’t need to buy top shelf liquor for this recipe, but I would avoid the bottom shelf stuff—it’s cheaper but usually much harsher. I like the American-made Tito’s brand, a popular choice and it’s in the middle of the road for price.
For sweetening the liqueur, I chose to make a rich simple syrup instead of a regular simple syrup. A rich simple syrup has more sugar than liquid, making it thicker and sweeter. This way, I can sweeten the liqueur without diluting it too much—you want as much stone pit fruit flavor as possible. I also infuse the syrup with fresh thyme sprigs for added flavor. I prefer to use simple syrup in homemade liqueurs to ensure the sugar dissolves fully.
Ingredient Swaps and Substitutions
Recipes like this are meant to be tinkered with and tailored to your specific tastes or ingredient availability. Here are some other ideas for creating your own stone fruit pit liqueur.
- Change up the spirit: Try bourbon for more caramel and oak notes or brandy for a sweet, dried fruit taste.
- Switch out the herbs: I’d stick with woodier herbs like sage or rosemary instead of the delicate ones like basil, so the herb doesn’t disintegrate during the month-long soak.
How to Use Stone Fruit Pit Liqueur
Here are some existing cocktails where the almond flavor of Stone Fruit Pit Liqueur could compliment the other ingredients.
- Swap it out for the honey syrup in this riff on the whiskey sour.
- The Trinidad Sour uses orgeat, a non-alcoholic sweet almond syrup that is often made without almonds, at least in many commercial products. Here is how you can make your own orgeat with real nuts or swap it out for the stone fruit pit liqueur with its own almond flavoring.
- The classic Mai Tai also uses orgeat, so it’s another cocktail to experiment with the stone fruit pit liqueur as well.
Make Ahead Stone Fruit Pit Liqueur
Because of the month-long steeping time for the nutty fruit pit flavors to infuse the vodka, this recipe is one that needs a little advance planning. After you roast the pits, however, it’s a hands-off recipe from there on out. When it’s time to add the thyme simple syrup, it only takes a few minutes until it’s ready to drink.
Store the liqueur in a tightly sealed glass bottle or jar in your liquor cabinet, fridge, or even freezer (it won’t freeze solid because of the alcohol content but will make a lovely, chilled sipper or speed up the chilling of a cocktail. It becomes liquid enough to pour in a few minutes). It should keep for at least a year, though you may use it all before then!
Stone Fruit Pit Liqueur
This stone fruit pit liqueur requires a one month steeping process.
For the liqueur:
1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) assorted stone fruit pits, such as apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, and/or cherries
1 1/2 cups vodka
5 small sprigs fresh thyme sprigs
For the thyme simple syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 small sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Glass jar or bottle for storing
Making the vodka infusion
Preheat the oven.
Roast the stone fruit pits and let cool:
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Arrange the pits on the mat, spacing them out. Roast until the pits turn darker and dry out, about 30 minutes. The smaller pits may turn darker more quickly, so remove them first if the larger pits need more time. Let cool.
Infuse the vodka for 1 month:
Put the pits into a large mason jar or other glass container with a lid. Add the vodka and thyme sprigs and seal the jar. Store in a dark, cool place for 1 month.
Finishing the liqueur
Make the simple syrup:
In a small saucepot over medium heat, combine the sugar, water, and thyme sprigs. Gently swirl or stir until the sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool with the thyme sprigs in the syrup. Once cool, discard the sprigs and add the vanilla extract.
Strain out the pits, then add the simple syrup:
Strain the pits through a cheesecloth-lined strainer into a clean jar or bottle. Add the thyme simple syrup and stir to dissolve.
Store the liqueur in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||0%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 6g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 2mg||11%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|