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Pitting cherries without a pitter?

Do I need a cherry pitter or is a cherry pitter a unitasker tool?

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  1. A cherry pitter is one of those annoying one task tools that clutter up the utensil drawer, but I adore ours. If you ever make cherry jam, ice cream, clafouti, sauce, or anything with more than about 10 cherries, you should own one.

    If you are patient, you can pit them by cutting all the way around the pit with a paring knife, pulling cherry in half, and removing the pit. OR, if you don't care if they get mashed, smash them with a meat pounder (or whatever) and remove the pit - just as you would do olives.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Junie D

      I would also like to add that the quality of the cherry pitter matters a lot. I had a junky one for years, and it mangled the cherries, was awkward to use, and left me hacking the flesh off the cherries with a small knife, cursing and grumbling all the while. Last summer though, I returned a gift to Crate & Barrel that turned to be the exact same price as a cherry pitter - around twelve bucks, if I remember correctly. This is more that I'd ordinary spend for such an item, but it was an even-Steven trade, so I splurged.

      The new cherry pitter was a revelation - well-designed and a joy to use. It felt like I had graduated from a Yugo to a BMW. The old cherry pitter went right into the garbage and all summer last year I kept buying cherries so I could have the opportunity to make things using my new cherry pitter.

      It's true - a cherry pitter is not only a one-task but a one-season tool. Nevertheless, it really doesn't take up that much room and I am thrilled to own mine, and looking forward to pitting many cherries this summer.

      1. re: Pumpkinseed

        Great point. The object of my affection is a Westmark - German "kirchentkerner". I keep it in the original box, which is marked $8.99.

        Picture: http://www.cheftools.com/prodinfo.asp...

      2. re: Junie D

        After trying a pitter and a knife, I found on Sunday that using my fingers was easiest and fastest. I ended up with 14 cups of pitted cherries and little waste, holding the cherry in one hand and plucking the pit with forefinger and thimb of the other. And these were pie cherries (maybe Montmorency), not big Bings.

        1. re: TNExplorer

          Amen, sister or brother! I have a sour cherry tree, and I've tried picks, potato nails, knives and everything else pointy until I realized since they were going to be cooked anyway appearance wasn't the #1 priority. It's a bit messy, but so are all the other methods.

      3. Use a chopstick. Simple, easy. Just push it through and the pit pops out.

        3 Replies
        1. re: JoanN

          Chopstick yes, but preceded by a quick penetration on both entrance and exit point using a 16 penny nail. It's like "pilot drilling" the path of the pit.

          The nails are kept bundled with a rubber band, 16 of them, for poking into baked taters at both poles... yields 8 taters at a quicker pace.

          1. re: FoodFuser

            Uh, just wondering . .. why do have the need to poke a baked potato w/ a nail?

            1. re: NYchowcook

              A nail inserted into each pole of a large potato, with an inch still sticking out, conducts heat into the center and helps it bake faster.

        2. You can also somewhat unfold a paper clip and use the curved end of that to pit cherries. Works great and almost everyone has paper clips around.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jackie de

            I'm liking this one! The chopstick suggestion is great, too, but I don't think I have any right now.

            1. re: jackie de

              "jackie de" is right!! However, I use a regular old fashioned hairpin (not bobbie pin). With either, the curved part wraps around the pit and pulls it out at the top point of entry. In this way you don't loose as much of the juice and the cherry keeps its form...without mutilating...leaving the cherry pretty much intact without looking like you squashed it with a brick!!!

              1. re: jackie de

                No need to unfold. Just use the double-semicircle end of a small clip.

              2. A few more ideas from last year ...

                "hammering a (clean) nail into a (likewise clean) board so that the point sticks up, then pushing the cherry down on the point until the pit pops out."

                "using the business end of a metal pastry bag tip"

                I agree that if getting a cherry pitter to get a good one. Can a cherry pitter also pit olives?

                1 Reply
                1. re: rworange

                  It can pit olives but since olives are usually more stuck to the pit, isn't perfect. I prefer to smash the olives anyway.

                  Love the nail in the board idea. Simple and brilliant.

                2. I pitted 14 cups of cherries (once the pits were gone) on Sunday, using my fingers. It was a lot faster than either a pitter or a knife -- and I tried both first. I held the cherry (the sour pie kind) with my my left hand and plucked out the pit using forefinger and thumb of my right. My goal was cherries for jam and pie, so a neat little hole from a pitter wasn't necessary. There was surprisingly little waste with this method.

                  1. I have no experience with this, but would a plastic straw work? I'm thinking the kind you get with a really thick milkshake. OK, it sounds dumb as I write this, but I'm always looking for that million dollar idea!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: nosey

                      A plastic straw works really well for the first bunch (dozen or so?) but then, at least in my hands, tends to get all squished and bend-y. I used to cut the straws into thirds thinking I'd get more use out of the shorter, more numerous pieces than one long straw.

                      Finally bought a good cherry pitter, despite its ability to only do one thing. Love it. Well worth it to me - the straw, while it worked, was aggravating.

                      1. re: nosey

                        I've always used a straw or a chopstick. The straws you need to replace halfway through, obviously not the case with the chopstick.

                      2. Last summer I pitted 60 lbs of sour cherries with a friend in two sittings. We started with a cherry pitter and the paperclip trick and progressed to just using our fingers pretty fast. I'm sure this wouldn't work well with rainers or bings or the like, but with our little montmorencys, it worked the best.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Vetter

                          I'm another in the fingers for Montmorencys camp.
                          Our crop is down this year, but 60 lbs is so do-able.
                          Speed increases as placement of cherries, pits and good stuff get adjusted to fit the most comfortable work pattern of the pitter (me).

                          1. re: Vetter

                            Curious as to how long it took time wise to pit 60lbs? I have a (new-to-me) tree in the backyard that supposedly got 75-80 pounds last year.

                            1. re: alexia

                              I don't remember. It became restful and repetitive and I really enjoyed the scent. If you get a good yield of Montmorencys, also consider making jam- great color and flavour.
                              (It takes longer to pit them than to pick them, although the pickers are so puffed at the vol they bring in, DH is like that)

                          2. You can use any single or multiple cherry pitter that you would use for hard, sweet cherries. All you have to do is put your soft, pie cherries in the freezer until they get hard, but not frozen. Works great! Try It!

                            1. When we had our own cherry trees I pitted up to fifty pounds of cherries at a time and found I could work faster with a serrated paring knife. Just wear something that you can throw away afterwards as cherry juice will be flying everywhere.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Querencia

                                Put pie cherries in the freezer till they're hard, not frozen, then use a box pitter. Works like they were sweet cherries.

                              2. No matter how you do it, you'll still have a cherry manicure for a few days!

                                (I use either a paperclip or a pitter)

                                1. I use a pair of cheap needle-nose pliers I bought for that purpose and cleaned before using. Insert through the stem end, open slightly to grab the pit, twist, pull out relatively briskly.

                                  Always worked for me..

                                  1. This whole thread makes me think of clafoutis -- the really old-school, really old-timer way of making clafoutis out in the countryside of France is to leave the pits in the cherries. (it's pretty rare to find it nowadays, but once in a while you stumble across it).

                                    I have always been convinced that it dates back to someone who just couldn't be bothered to pit one more stinking bowl of cherries, then saying "uhhh yeah, yeah -- if you leave the pits in, it gives the cherries more flavor! Yeaaaahhhhh, THAT's the ticket!"

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      The pit has tons of flavor, for sure! Have made a great tasting liquor from sour cherry pits.
                                      Pits left in the fruit makes one slow down the eating process, too.
                                      Leifheit is an excellent brand cherry pitter. Fast and I haven't tried partially freezing cherries yet.

                                      1. re: kipkappa

                                        I know -- and I made some fantastic liqueur last year with unpitted mirabelle plums -- but for a cooked dish, it's a little hazardous to dental work....and always makes me wonder if it wasn't influenced a little bit by laziness.

                                    2. I know this is an old thread but I just saw an interesting article showing how to pit cherries with a bottle and a chop stick.


                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                        I just bite mine in half and spit the one half into the bowl - flick out the pit - and drop the other half into the bowl.

                                        Works like a charm and my guest never know . . . .

                                        1. re: drewpbalzac

                                          And you smile inwardly as you watch your guests chow down on them..... :-)

                                        2. re: Hank Hanover

                                          Food52 just did an article with a similar method for pitting cherries into a bottle: http://www.food52.com/blog/3795_hacki...

                                          I have an OXO cherry pitter that I like, but it's also very messy with the seeds flinging out. I like the idea of containing the seeds and any juice spray in a bottle.

                                        3. You do not need one. There are two ways I pit cherries; one is to push them through a funnel spout, a snug one. You may need to check the finished pile of produce, but it should work quite well, or at least it does for me. The other way is just to push a drinking straw through the cherry's middle - byebye pits. And it takes away less flesh than digging with a parer.

                                          1. Didn't realize they made those. I should get one to make jam.

                                            1. The easiest way I have found is this:

                                              1. get a small funnel
                                              2. overturn it in the bottom of a ceramic mixing bowl (large opening down - small spout point up)
                                              3. remove the stem and place the cherry, stem-end down, onto inverted funnel spout
                                              4. push down and remove pit

                                              This works great; hardly leaving any flesh on the pit. If this occurs, just easily pinch the flesh off the pit and drop into the bowl with the cherries. This method also has the advantage of retaining all the juice from the cherries as you pit them.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: zcook

                                                I use a funnel another way. Set it into a glass or mug, tube down. Remove the cherry stem and set it stem side up in the funnel, which cradles it in place. Then push through the center with a chopstick, dowel, crochet hook, etc. This is easier than the soda bottle method, IME.

                                              2. When we're in production mode, we pound a nail with 1/4" head into a small piece of board, and pit the cherries by pushing them down on the nail head. Easy peasy.