Homemade Almond Extract

A few weeks ago, I read a pretty inconspicuous post on The Kitchn about Noyaux.  Noyaux is a French word referring to the actual seed inside a stone fruit’s pit.  These noyaux can be used to make bitter almond extract!

I’ve made vanilla extract before, and I know how it puts the storebought stuff to shame, so I was instantly intrigued.

It seems strange to make almond extract out of something besides an almond, but that’s exactly what you do!

How to Make Homemade Almond Extract | Oysters & Pearls

Turns out, the reason cherries, peaches, and other pitted fruits are enhanced in cooking and baking with almond extract is because they are related to almonds.  I had never thought about why that was, but it makes perfect sense now that I do.

So it all started with that article, and then proceeded with the revelation that I already had quite a few peaches and two bags full of cherries (which I recently became addicted to) just hanging out in the kitchen.  I started saving all the pits from the aforementioned fruits and threw them in a bag in the freezer.  I did some research, and turns out throwing the pits in the freezer makes them easier to crack (supposedly) and the pit’s shell keeps the kernel protected from freezer burn.  Also, you have to eat a lot of fruit to get enough noyaux to make extract, so keeping the pits in the freezer is also very practical unless you are feeding peaches to a small army.

Peach Pits | Oysters & Pearls

Last weekend, I decided I finally had enough peach pits (above) and cherry pits (below) to make my almond extract.

Cherry Pits | Oysters & Pearls

So I busted out my hammer and got to work.  To set it up, I layered a wet dish towel, then a cutting board, then a dry dish towel, then a plastic gallon ziploc bag (to protect the dish towel), then a couple paper towels.  Got that?

I did the peach pits first, since I figured they would be the hardest.  Put a pit in the center of the paper towels, and fold everything in half over the pit.  That way you have a paper towel layer, then a ziploc layer, then a dish towel layer between the hammer and the pit.  You want to try to hit it hard enough to break it open without crushing the kernel inside.

Tip: use your left hand to hold the layers of paper towel/ziploc/dish towel tight.  Otherwise, your pit might go flying across the room when you hit it with your hammer.

Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…

Smashing Peach Pits | Oysters & Pearls

Breaking open a peach pit, it turns out, is kinda hard.  And it’s almost impossible to avoid breaking the noyaux.  But that’s okay.  Just pick it out anyway.

It also turns out that crushing peach pits makes a really, really pretty mess!

Once I had busted all my peach pits and retrieved the noyaux, I set the peach pits aside and began busting cherry pits.

Cherry Pits Lined up for Smashing | Oysters & Pearls

The cherry pits were so teensy that I just lined up a small handful of them across the center of the paper towels and folded everything over them.  Then I just went down the line with my hammer.

Extracting Cherry Noyaux | Oysters & Pearls

Open it back up, pick out the noyaux, and dump the shells (into the trash or the compost bin).

Once you have all your pits, SMELL THEM.  That Heavenly smell may haunt me until my dying day.

Extracting Peach & Cherry Noyaux | Oysters & Pearls

It was the most complex, fruity, bitter, almond-y, sweet, delicate, ethereal (yes I’m going there) smell I’ve ever had the pleasure of smelling.

I literally ran outside and made Wheat smell it.  I could have sniffed noyaux all day.

Cherry & Peach Noyaux for Almond Extract | Oysters & Pearls

If the “almond” extract tastes half as good as those noyaux smelled, my baking/cocktails/extract huffing is about to reach a whole ‘nother level.

On that note, you can use this stuff to flavor not just my pound cake {recipe here}, but also ice cream, cocktails, other cakes and cookies… whatever your little heart desires!

I should also mention that noyaux are known to contain low levels of cyanide.  But then again, so do many other foods we eat!  It’s fine in very small doses, and rendered inactive when you cook it (as in using it in baking), so just don’t go chugging a jar of the stuff –  no matter how amazing it smells!  Moving on.

To make the extract, I kept the different types of noyaux separate as an experiment of sorts.  They smelled different (Wheat thought the peach smelled the best, I liked the cherry better), so it stands to reason that the extracts would taste and smell differently, too.

I put the pits in jars and filled them to the top with good vodka.

Homemade Almond Extract from Peach Noyaux | Oysters & Pearls

I had fewer peach pits, so they got a smaller jar.  The only ratio I really found was 2 cups of vodka to a TON of noyaux, so I figured small jars were reasonable.

Homemade Almond Extract from Cherry Noyaux | Oysters & Pearls

I had more cherry pits, so they got a taller jar and more vodka.

Cherry Noyaux Almond Extract | Oysters & Pearls

The final instructions are to place in a dark cabinet and to shake them up when you think about it.  I’ve read that the extract takes anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months to be “finished.”  I’ll try to come back and update this post when I determine that it smells “done.”  This will be an excellent excuse to sniff it on a daily basis.

I’ve since read that homemade almond extract can be made from loquat pits, so I’m really excited that we planted three loquat trees at the beginning of the summer!  Have you ever even heard of making homemade almond extract?  Or done it?  Or know of anything else I can turn into almond extract?  I’m hooked!


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16 thoughts on “Homemade Almond Extract

  1. Betsy

    This gives a new (and more positive) meaning to “smell my pits!” I had never heard of noyaux or that there was something else inside the peach/cherry pits. Fun and interesting stuff. Love your blog!

    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      Haha! That “cracked” me up this morning! I didn’t realize it either until a few weeks ago. It’s been a fun little project. And I love that it’s making something so great from something I’ve been throwing away! Thank you for reading! :)

  2. Christine McCain

    I was told you can make homemade vanilla extract by using vanilla beans in bourbon. Can you use bourbon for the almond, or does it need to be vodka. If you made homemade vanilla, did you use vodka for that also. I really enjoy reading what your blogs.

    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      Hi! Yes, you can use vanilla beans and bourbon OR vodka to make vanilla extract. I used vodka, because we had already drank our bourbon… ;) But I can assure you, the vanilla extract with vodka is DELICIOUS! I’m not sure I would use bourbon for the almond extract though. Almond extract is always clear when you buy it (as opposed to vanilla extract, which will be dark no matter what liquor you use), and the almond flavor is very subtle, so I would be afraid the bourbon would overpower it. I haven’t read of anyone using bourbon either. But with all that being said, what’s the worst that could happen if you try it? It is a lot of work to crack open all those pits, but if you’re up for the challenge of that experiment, let me know how it goes! Thanks for reading! :)

  3. Laura Peiper

    Love reading your blog, It is nice to see young people interested in how our ancestors created needed items. I never knew that almond extract came from peach and cherry seeds! I always thought they were from the almonds. Now I see why “pure” extracts are so expensive. Tell Wheat “Hi” from his old Kindergarten teacher.

    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      I certainly will tell him! Thanks for reading! :) I actually think that the “pure” almond extracts are made with the oil from bitter almonds combined with alcohol. That’s why they are so pricey! This is how most commercial almond extracts are made (the cheaper kinds). I have high hopes that these will taste much better than what I buy at Winn Dixie!

  4. Pingback: Homemade Lemon Extract - Oysters & Pearls

  5. LadyNonaLuna

    Oh yesssss… I’m off to pit some gorgeous black sweet cherries I threw in the freezer in anticipation of this project… Just picked up my (HOOGE) bottle of vodka yesterday! Gonna extract the cherries as well… YUMM!!! Love your blog!!! Thanks so much for all the new info! CIAO!!! ;)

  6. Diane

    I’m just a little concerned about using apricot, cherry or peach seeds for extract. They are all three poisonous seeds especially if broken. I’m not saying you are doing anything wrong because I am not an expert but everything I have read says it produces Hydrogen Cynide even in extract. Some even suggest not to use the commercial pure almond extract because they use bitter almonds instead of sweet almonds, which are contain cynide. There are people who use these seeds to make extract but they use them whole and boil them first but never use broken ones. Like I said, I’m not the expert here. Only concerned and asking you to do some research. :)

    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      Hi Diane! I appreciate your concern! You are correct, actually. I mentioned in the post that fact, and also that it is rendered inactive once cooked, as I found in my research. If The Kitchn feels safe doing it, I do too. ;) That being said, I dont endorse chugging it, and I of course keep it safely out of the reach of any children. Thank you for being concerned! And for reading. :)

      1. Anita

        Hi! I have been extensively researching how to make almond extract and came across your blog! I just wanted to see if you have any updates on how your almond extract turn out? I have had my plain almonds soaking in vodka for a month and it still smells like straight up vodka….not that wonderfully fruity aroma that store bought almond extract has. So I would love to hear an update about how yours turned out to see if I should save my cherry and peach pits this summer, or give up on my almond extract project. I make vanilla extract all the time with no problem.

        1. oystersandpearls Post author

          Hi!! I actually have been using it in baking and it’s wonderful! It took a bit longer than expected to quit smelling like pure rubbing alcohol though. I forgot about it for a few months and am happy to report that after 6 months, it smells amazing! I hope yours does soon, too!

          1. Arlis

            So glad for the update! I was looking for bitter almonds to make almond extract, but now I can’t wait to save our peach pits and cherry pits next summer! Which kind of cherry pits did you use? Were they from sweet or sour cherries? I wonder if it makes a difference?

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