Surviving summer in Central Texas is deserving of a drink. Thankfully we have the Edible Austin Beverage Issue! Check out my recent column there for my recipes for stone fruit liqueur*, blackberry bitters and lemongrass simple syrup.
Upon perusal of this issue, you will also find a feature on me (not surprisingly dotted with my orange pets) to intoduce the regular column I’ll be writing for this quarterly publication. In both articles you’ll find the photo handiwork of my love; how lucky I am to work with her on this project!
*A reader contacted me with concerns about the risk of stone fruit pits and cyanide. Here’s what I shared with him regarding this recipe:
I understand your concern and I talked it over with food scientists and a chemist prior to posting this. I learned a number of things, which, combined with multiple friends’ experience consuming this recipe’s yield, reassured me of the safety of this recipe. First off, the proportion of pits to grain alcohol plus the later stage addition of sugar/water dilution puts the level of hydrogen cyanide released at a low dilution percentage.
The amygdalin—which breaks down with help from and enzyme called beta-d-glucosidase into hydrocyanic acid, dextrose, and benzaldehyde (that tasty almond flavor)—is extracted in larger chemical scale with boiling ethanol, and it’s only slightly soluble in alcohol under normal circumstances. Over time, the pits sitting in the grain alcohol, and then in added sugar/water solution will also cause some of the hydrogen cyanide to decompose through hydrolization.
I also learned that sugar can inhibit the work of the enzyme beta-d-glucosidase, which is what extracts the cyanide from the pits’ oil. Seeing as there’s a hefty volume of sugar in the recipe, it adds another layer of comfort personally.
I’m not a chemist though and this exact recipe has not been tested in a lab. For those who are overly concerned about the safety of using stonefruit pits, I’ve read ways of removing amygdalin that include boiling the pits, grinding them up and then roasting them in the oven at 350. That runs the risk of zapping the subtlety of the benzaldehyde (almond flavor and fragrance) that we’re after though.