cracked almonds

Vintage Recipes Using Sweet and Bitter Almonds

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sweet almonds are the kind we eat today in the U.S.  But old cookbooks include bitter almonds in recipes. Bitter almonds can be poisonous if you eat too many.

I’m a fan of old British mysteries and when someone is poisoned by cyanide, the detective often notices the smell of bitter almonds. I never really thought that cyanide was actually made from almonds.

Selling bitter almonds is prohibited in the United States, although you can buy European-grown bitter almonds on Amazon.


Bitter Almonds – A variety of almond with an astringent taste and traces of prussic acid/hydrocyanic acid, which may be lethal to animals and humans.

Blanch – To place any food on the fire till it boils, then plunge it in cold water to stop the cooking.

Macerating – Soften by soaking in a liquid.

Moderate Oven – A moderate oven is about 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit; you could hold your hand in the oven about 45 seconds without burning.

Rose-water – Made by steeping rose petals in water, used to flavor food, in cosmetics, and perfumes.

Rusk – Piece of twice-baked bread.

Strew – Scatter or spread untidily over a surface or area.


Although there are two kinds of almonds, the sweet and the bitter, they are considered as only varieties of the same species. Almonds are considered as very indigestible. The bitter contain, too, principles which produce two violent poisons,—prussic acid and a kind of volatile oil. It is consequently dangerous to eat them in large quantities. It is better to buy them in the shell as shelled almonds are apt to have bitter ones among them.

Almonds are very easily cracked and you will have no trouble with them. Pounded together with a little sugar and water will produce a milk similar to that which is yielded by animals. Their oil is used for making fine soap, and their cake as a cosmetic.

An emulsion of almonds is useful in chest affections. It is made by well macerating the nuts in a nut butter machine, and mixing with orange or lemon juice.

Take any quantity of shelled almonds and blanch by pouring boiling water on them. The skins can then be easily removed. Lay the blanched almonds on a tin, and bake to a pale yellow color. On no account let them brown, as this develops irritating properties. To be eaten with vegetable stews and pies.

To one quart boiling water, add one-fourth pound almonds (shelled). Allow the almonds to stand in boiling water in a covered utensil for fifteen minutes. Rinse off with hot water and place in a colander. Remove the skins. Place three tablespoons oil in a frying-pan. When hot, add nuts. Stir constantly over a moderate fire for fifteen minutes. Pour into a clean cloth. Rub off any oil which has remained on the almonds. Sprinkle salt over the nuts while warm. When thoroughly cooled, place the almonds in a covered tin can until ready to serve.

Almond soup is an excellent substitute for beef-tea for convalescents. It is made by simply blanching and pounding a quarter of a pound of sweet almonds with half a pint of milk or vegetable stock. Another pint of milk or stock is then to be added and the whole warmed. After this, add another pint and a half of stock if the soup is to be a vegetable one, or rice water if milk has been used.

Blanch three-quarters of a pound of shelled sweet almonds, and three ounces of shelled bitter almonds. Beat them in a mortar to a fine paste, mixing them well, and adding by degrees a tea-cup of rose water. Boil in a pint of rich milk, a few sticks of cinnamon broken up, and a few blades of mace. When the milk has come to a boil, take it off the fire, strain it into a pan, and soak in it five stale rusks cut into slices. They must soak till quite dissolved.

Stir to a cream three-quarters of a pound of fresh butter, mixed with the same quantity of powdered loaf-sugar. Beat ten eggs very light, yolks and whites together, and then stir alternately into the butter and sugar, the rusk, eggs, and almonds. Set it on a stove or a chafing dish, and stir the whole together till very smooth and thick. Put it into a buttered dish and bake it three-quarters of an hour. It must be eaten cool or cold.

Blanch and pound in a mortar half a pound of shelled sweet almonds till they are a smooth paste, adding rose water as you pound them. They should be done the day before they are wanted. Prepare a pound of loaf sugar finely powdered, a teaspoon of mixed spice, (mace, nutmeg, and cinnamon,) and three-quarters of a pound of sifted flour. Take fourteen eggs, and separate the whites from the yolks. Leave out seven of the whites, and beat the other seven to a stiff froth. Beat the yolks till very thick and smooth, and then beat the sugar gradually into them, adding the spice. Next stir in the white of egg, then the flour, and lastly the almonds. You may add twelve drops of essence of lemon. Put the mixture into a square tin pan, (well buttered,) or into a copper or tin turban-mold, and set it immediately in a brisk oven. Ice it when cool. It is best if eaten fresh.

Beat in a mortar four ounces blanched almonds, with one teaspoon water to prevent oiling. Put the paste to a quart of cream, and add the juice of three lemons sweetened. Beat it with a whisk to a froth, taking it off on the shallow part of a sieve. Fill the glasses with some of the liquor and add the froth.

Blanch half a pound of sweet almonds and pound them to a fine paste, adding to them by degrees six eggs. When thoroughly pounded, pour on them a pound of powdered sugar, the same of butter, and the rinds of two lemons grated. Beat up these ingredients in the mortar, put a pound of flour on a slab, and having poured the almond paste upon it, knead them together till they are well incorporated. Roll it out, and cut the cracknels into such forms as you think proper. Rub them with yolk of egg, and strew over them powdered sugar or cinnamon. Then lay them on a buttered tin, and bake them in a moderate oven, taking great care they do not burn.

Blanch and beat four ounces of almonds fine, with a spoon of water. In another bowl, beat a pint of cream with two spoons of rose-water, add the yolks of four eggs, and as much sugar as will make it tolerably sweet. When thoroughly mixed, add the almonds, stir it all over a slow fire without boiling till of a proper thickness, and pour it into cups.

photo credit


You may like the book:

DIY Nut Milks, Nut Butters, and More: From Almonds to Walnuts

Available on Amazon


Do You Have a Favorite Nut Snack or Recipe? Leave a Comment Below.


Posted in Nuts.


  1. Every one of those looks like a delicious recipe. What’s not to like, right? Butter and almonds. Eggs and almonds. Cream and almonds. Sugar and almonds. Butter, eggs, cream, sugar and almonds. But I’m especially partial to the cracknels. Definitely going to have to give those a try. Thank you for your ongoing fidelity to this project.

    • I’m glad you’re going to give the cracknels recipe a try. I really like the name – cracknels.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *