Every other Sunday, we'll focus on one overlooked kitchen scrap and show you how to turn what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure.
Today: This ice cream is the pits. No, really—it's made with stone fruit pits.
Stone fruit pits are one kitchen scrap that’s easy to toss in the compost bin without remorse.
But inside of those pits are the stone fruits’ seeds (also called kernels). And they are, in fact, useful—very useful. (Does the French word noyaux ring a bell? It refers to those seeds.) They can be added to jams; substituted for some of the almonds in cookies and biscotti; and used as a flavoring agent in liqueur, simple syrup, vinegar, and desserts like crème anglaise—and today’s ice cream recipe from Amanda Hesser.
Amanda originally shared this recipe in the New York Times, and I heartily recommend following her suggestion of asking dinner party guests to guess the flavor. They’ll say almond, because the ice cream flavor is incredibly similar to almond—it will make you think of almond extract, but not in a bad way. It’s like an amazingly richly-flavored almond extract, with a well-rounded nutty flavor and a slightly bitter finish. It’s delicious.
This isn’t an ice cream to make on a whim; you’ll need around 6 pints of apricots to get 50 pits. If you're buying fruit just for the pits, that would make this an expensive quart of ice cream. So plan to make this after you've finished a batch of apricot jam, or simply collect your pits and store them in the refrigerator or freezer until you get enough.
Amanda also notes that you don’t have to stick with apricot pits: The kernels of nectarines, peaches, and plums all work well, too.
You can use a nutcracker to get the kernels out if you are a patient, methodical person; everyone else should wrap the pits in a tea towel, set them on a sturdy cutting board, and whack them with a hammer. It’s extraordinarily satisfying to hear the pop when the pits crack open—though my cutting board did gain a little extra character in the form of subtle divots.
You’ve likely heard that stone fruit pits contain cyanide, and they do. A small handful of raw kernels could result in a stomachache—or worse. But this recipe has two steps that make it much less risky: One, you cook the kernels—simmering them in milk, twice—which reduces or eliminates the harmful substances. Two, you don’t actually eat the kernels: You use them as an aromatic to flavor the milk and cream, and then you strain them out.
If you're still worried about it, take a pass on this ice cream—but send me your pits.
Makes one quart
45 to 50 apricot pits (4 1/2 ounces)
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
7 egg yolks
Know of a great recipe in the Food52 archives that uses scraps (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments! Thanks to Executive Editor Kristen Miglore for this one!
First photo by James Ransom, second and third photo by Alpha Smoot