I'm cooking jelly from quinces, with core housing and seeds. I try to remove sliced seeds. From the leftover mass I prepare delicious quince bread by passing it through a food mill ("Flotte Lotte"). What is left in the food mill (seeds etc., now called residuum) I put in the freezer to get additional juice after quince season. The seed shell from the seeds is damaged/removed during the milling process.

Is it safe to cook the residuum once more? I've read that the hydrogen cyanide inside the seeds is water solutable and volatile. So I'm unsure if

  • hydrogen cyanide is still inside the seeds after cooking for one hour
  • the hydrogen cyanide can escape from slightly damaged seeds
  • I cook poisonous juice
  • I poison myself from the gas while cooking

I really don't want to put anyone's health on jeopardy.

1 Answer 1


Short answer: It is not unsafe. There is little HCN present to start with and less after cooking. You cannot poison yourself with gas from this.

Hydrogen cyanide (HCN) boils at 26 C (79 F), which is quite low, so after one hour of boiling you would be left with very little HCN. You need about 200 ppm in most mammals for the LD50 (dose at which 50% of a group of animals die). You are very unlikely to reach this concentration in a kitchen with the window open or an extractor fan running. I've been unable to find values for the HCN content in quince, but there are closely related species like apple and pear that do have available values for the HCN containing compounds.

However, what is actually in quince seeds is a nitrile compound - this is a group of chemicals that contain a cyanide group; the most commonly studied and mentioned form of this is a chemical known as Amygdalin. These are altered by the stomach acids and enzymes and can release the HCN from the nitrile. How much is released is probably a bit dependent on the conditions under which it is treated. Boiling seems to be effective at extracting amygdalins and that they contain in apple and pear between 3.0 and 1.3 mg/gram of amygdalin respectively. This converts to 0.1772 mg HCN per gram of seed dry weight for apple (please check my maths - HCN Mr = 27.0253 g/mol; amygdalin Mr = 457.429 g/mol; there is 1 HCN per amygdalin). If you boiled 100 grams of the (dry) seed you would get ~12 milligrams of potential HCN. The NIOSH limits for HCN exposure are a time-weighted average of 10 mg/m3 over 8 hours, so you would need to absorb all of that amygdalin over about 8 hours to see any effect.

It seems that the seeds are incorporated into a bunch of unscientific/folk remedies (see sections on edible and medicinal uses), so it is unlikely that there is actually much threat from the seed or products of the seeds unless consumed in significant amounts.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. Could you please end the sentence "It seems that seeds of this sort contain about"? Also the last sentence sends mixed signals. Thank you
    – Duda
    Oct 26, 2020 at 13:31
  • Sorry - I was looking for info on the mass of HCN/100g seed, but could only find it for apple and pear (both also rosaceae, with similar fruit and contain amygdalin the HCN containing stuff). Edited in.
    – bob1
    Oct 26, 2020 at 19:33
  • Isn't the short answer "Yes [it is safe]", not "no"?
    – Théophile
    Aug 10, 2022 at 14:33
  • 1
    @Théophile I was answering the bullet points, but I'll edit to make more clear.
    – bob1
    Aug 10, 2022 at 22:44
  • Another key thing that helps here is that the quince "residual" is acidic, so the H⁺ + CN⁻ <=> HCN equilibrium is on the volatile HCN side. HCN/CN⁻ is sensitive to oxygenation (which will occur even in the freezer to some extent), helping as well. Last but not least, we humans eat a variety of foods containing cyanogenic glycosids (e.g. linseeds), and we have a detoxification pathway available. The point is not to overwhelm that. Some references and numbers are in my answer here: cooking.stackexchange.com/a/109168/52931 Aug 15, 2022 at 19:16

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