Looking to reduce waste and improve quality, Cody Middleton, Pastry Chef of Forsyth Country Club, is now turning stone fruit pits in noyaux.
Summer brings with it a bounty of fresh, local fruits and vegetables.
In the savory kitchen, there is always a push for total product utilization, however, I have found that this is not as widely emphasized in the pastry kitchen. Using an entire animal for a variety of applications is one of the bases for charcuterie production. In the pastry kitchen, where there is more produce than proteins, the same mindset can still be applied.
Here in North Carolina, strawberries and peaches are the undisputed iconic summertime fruits, but cherries have always been at the top of my list. Every time I was prep cherries the same question plagues me: what do I do with all the pits that remain?
I have always been one to utilize a product or ingredient to its fullest. This pit issue especially got under my skin because a majority of the weight of the cherry is the pit, and therefore, usually just thrown away.
One technique that I have heard about and started to experiment with at Forsyth Country Club is a technique known as noyaux. “Noyaux” translates from French to “pit,” “stone,” or “kernel.” This word also is used to describe the process of extracting flavor from the pits/kernels of drupes. Many times, the matured extract is used in place of almond extract. How is this possible you might ask? It just so happens that almonds, pecan, and walnuts are classified as drupes. So are apricots, cherries, and peaches. We just eat the fleshy part of the later products instead of the seeds as is the case for the nuts. Since these are all in the same family, the pits from cherries/apricots contain some of the same compounds, and therefore similar flavor profiles, as almonds. It can also be noted that cheaper almond pastes often use apricot pits as fillers for the same reasons.
The process for making noyaux extract is quite simple. Once the pits have removed from fruit, the kernels (which are inside the pits) are extracted. This is done by crushing the pits. The remaining steps can be altered to fit the chef’s desired outcome.
First, the kernels can be roasted to give the extract a little more nutty and complex flavor. (While it is true that cherry, apricot, and other similar drupe pits do contain cyanide, it has been concluded that the minute amount actually consumed after being extracted does not pose a significant risk for cyanide poisoning.) In addition, the type of alcohol will naturally influence the final noyaux. Vodka is the standard choice due to its neutral flavor, however, brandy or a combination of the two is also good. My first roommate in college made a Jack Daniel’s vanilla extract growing up, so the possibilities are pretty much infinite. It is of course dependent upon what the chef envisions as the extract’s primary use. The kernels are allowed to infuse for around three months in a dark place while being shaken every couple weeks. Whenever the extract has reached its desired flavor profile/degree of strength, the extract is strained and then stored like purchased extracts.
Thinking outside the box and striving to set one’s club apart should always be in the back of your mind. Producing and promoting “house-made extracts” not only capitalizes on food yield, it also creates a unique talking point for members and potential members.