Since someone asked me about this, I thought I should write it up.
You may have noted I used Apricot Kernels in my Orgeat.
A friend asked, “so the cyanide from the apricot kernels isn’t a problem in the orgeat?”
First, let me say I’m not a scientist or a doctor. Please take anything I say here as simply conclusions and choices I have drawn for myself. Make your own choices and draw your own conclusions.
I will note that the seeds (and other parts) of all members of the rose family (Rosacea) contain cyanogenic glycosides. This plant family includes apricots, almonds, cherries, plums, peaches, apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, and about 2,900 other plant species, On ingestion cyanogenic glycosides release hydrogen cyanide into your system. The amounts of these chemicals vary from plant to plant and species to species. Bitter almonds generally contain the most. Eating 50-70 bitter almonds in one sitting is enough to be potentially fatal for an adult human.
Fortunately, in most people, these chemicals are rapidly broken down by your liver, and do not build up over time. Small doses are apt to do no damage.
Just to be clear, we take in many potentially deadly chemicals every day. Caffeine and Alcohol are prime examples. For the most part, if we partake in relative moderation, our body cleans these potential poisons out with little consequence.
Apricot kernels have a flavor similar to the one we associate with the almond extract made from bitter almonds. Making Orgeat without almond extract or apricot kernels results in a taste that is mostly nutty and a bit meaty. None of that nice cherry-ish top note.
In my batch I used about 2 ounces of apricot kernels to make what amounted to a gallon of syrup. This was probably 20 apricot kernels. If you sat down and ate all 20 to 30 apricot kernels at once, you might be in trouble. However, dissolved in what amounts to over a gallon of syrup, I’m not worried.
However, if you’re prone to worry or a bit paranoid about your health, feel free to skip the apricot kernels and just use almond extract.
Myself, I’m kind of interested in bumping the percentage of apricot kernels used, in the hopes of being able to skip the almond extract altogether.