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Tuesday, August 16, 2011


new crop of almonds
Photo from: Marlis1
L. Prunus amygdalus var. amara, Eng. bitter almonds. Bitter almonds are distinguished from sweet ones because they are broader and smaller. Further, there is no doubt when tasted. They are too bitter to eat raw. They are poisonous but contain 50% oil. Long before the Christian era, Greece and Italy were cultivating bitter almonds to extract the oil because it was highly valued. The bitterness in the almond comes from prussic acid. Each almond contains 6-8%. Heating the almonds destroys this. After that, oil is extracted but it is expensive. It takes about 5 lb. of almonds to produce ½ oz of oil. Also, they yield a volatile oil, commonly called ‘almond flavoring’ or ‘spirit of almonds’. Primarily, this is used for culinary and confectionery flavoring. In ancient times, it was added as flavoring in food, burned in oil lamps, administered as medicine and added to table wines to give them their nutty flavor. Bitter almond oil, originally, came from North Africa (Barbary), which has been considered of the best. Southern France and Sicily too are famed for supplying the best oil. Medicinally, almond oil has an advantage over olive oil for the emollient qualities of the oil. With this, there is no danger of ill effects that could make it turn rancid. Emulsions, also, are prepared for bladder and kidney disorders. Further, the oil is used to soften and relax solids, allay acid juices and for bronchial diseases, especially for hoarseness and coughs, nephritic pains and constipation. In 1999, it was proven that a few almonds a day lower the blood pressure. Almond oil was a cure all from chapped hands to acne, as a skin cleanser and a painkiller. Almonds began as garnish, but by medieval times, they were finely ground and added to sauces as a thickener. Almond milk, made from bitter almonds, appears in various Hispano-Arabic and English recipes especially those for chicken. Almond milk is made by blanching them and soaking them over night. Then they are pounded into a powder and strained. It may be seasoned with rosewater. This can be drunk alone as a substitute for cow’s milk, served as a cold soup or made into a frumenty (see guisado de trigo or blancmange). For those who suffering from celiac disease, almond flour is the perfect solution as it does not contain gluten (like wheat) and the starch content is extremely low.[Anón/Grewe. 1982:LVI:100-101:LXI:105; LXIIII:107-108 etc; Anón/Huici.1966:38:34:65:48:66:48 etc; Castro. Alimentación. 1996: 276 ES: Grieve. “Almonds.” 1995; and Nola. 1989:xvi-3:xvii-2:xxi-1 etc]


(Note: Think what you like about the Middle Ages but there are no brooms in Broom Pudding! It is named for the color of the yellow broom blossom of the plant, which is the color one wants to obtain when adding saffron.)
Yellow Broom (the color wanted for the pudding)
Photo by: karen and mc


1 c ground almonds
1 c water
1 stick cinnamon
3 cloves
3 to 4 tbsp rice flour (made from grinding rice)
4 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. saffron ground
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted pine kernels 


Grind almonds in a blender. Pour boiling water over the ground almonds and blend. Add cinnamon and cloves. Let stand for a half hour. Strain through a cheese cloth. Remove cinnamon and cloves and set aside. 

Chop raisins if big. Roast the pine nuts.

Put 1 tbsp almond milk in a pan and stir in saffron. When saffron is dissolved add the rest of the almond milk with sugar and the reserved cinnamon and cloves.  Add rice flour and mix well. Bring to the boil, keep stirring until the almond milk has thickened. This will take a couple of minutes.

Pour into a serving dish or individual bowls. Add raisins.  Sprinkle the pine kernels over the pudding just before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.


  1. Muy interesante lo de las almendras amargas: yo creía que simplemente eran almendras normales "verdes". No sé si serán las mismas que utilizan en Italia para hacer el amaretto (tanto los dulces como el licor), aunque siempre he leído en los ingredientes que lo hacen con almendras de albaricoque: ¿quízá porque no tienen almendras amargas de verdad?

  2. Yes bitter almonds could be used in making amaretto. Recipes call for peach nectar and almond liquor. Apricot kernels are sweet and sour. I believe the sour ones are the dangerous ones for their amygdalin content. Anyway, contrary to bitter almonds, roasting them does to seem to do anything about this poisonous substance. Apricot kernels have been called "the poor man's apricot." So one could suspect that apricot kernels have been used to make amaetto. If you suspect they are used, my advise is do not but the bottle.

  3. Well, I think amaretti cookies are safer than Amaretto di Saronno (liquor!). I don't think European regulations about food allow any poisons, anyways...