You've just brought home a beautiful bunch of cherries from the farm stand and can't wait to make your grandmother's cherry pie. But first, you have to pit all of those cherries—and you don't own a pitter! No worries, there are some foolproof methods you can employ to rid those cherries of their pits.
The two techniques that are our favorites to use—the twist method and the poke method—are equally simple ways to pit cherries without a cherry pitter. Each technique requires its own tool, many of which you already have in your kitchen drawer.
Watch Now: 2 Easy Ways to Pit Cherries
Make sure to choose fresh, ripe cherries. Rinse them with cool water, pat them dry, and remove their stems. If you have a lot of cherries, this is a good activity to do with a partner or two. If you are doing this on your own, be prepared for it to take some time. Also, keep in mind that the cherries are juicy and that their juice stains. A cutting mat set over your cutting board saves tons of time on clean-up since you can just throw it in the dishwasher.
The Twist Method
This method requires something thin that you can insert into the cherry and then twist to remove the pit. Good options are a toothpick, unbent paper clip, hair pin, lobster pick, or a metal orange stick (used for manicures). Insert whichever tool you choose into the stem-end of the cherry. You should feel it hit the pit. Then twist your implement around the pit and pop it out.
It will take you a few cherries to get the feel of it. Be patient, experiment a bit to find the tool and the twisting motion that works best for you, and don't worry about the mangled mess of those first few cherries—they'll still taste good.
The Poke Method
Of course, with the twist method, you are doing some poking, but when you see how this technique works, you'll understand why it's named the poke method. For this procedure, you will need a pastry tip, straw, or chopstick.
Insert whichever tool you've chosen into the stem-end of the cherry and push it through until the pit exits the other side. In a perfect world, the tip or straw hit the pits and pushes them clear through.
A thinner pastry tip works best, since thicker pastry tips, straws, and chopsticks end up taking a fair amount of fruit along with the pit. However, you do need to pay a bit more attention and actually hit the pit on your way through when using a thin tip.
Add a bottle with a narrow opening, like a beer or wine bottle for a bit tidier version of the poke method. Simply, place the cherry on the opening of the bottle, with the stem hole facing up. Press the pointy end of the pastry tip, or whatever tool you're using, straight down through the stem hole and through the cherry, driving the pit out and down into the bottle.
In addition to these two methods, you could also use a paring knife to cut the cherry in half, exactly like you might if you were cutting a peach, and remove the pit with your fingers. Or, if you don't mind getting your fingers messy and don't care about the aesthetics of the pitted cherry, you can simply use your fingers to pull the pit out. Both of these methods will work best with firmer cherries.
Using Pitted Cherries
Whichever method you have chosen, once you've completed one cherry discard the pit and repeat with the remaining fruit until done.
Now you are ready to incorporate the cherries in a baked good, throw them into smoothies, make brandied cherries or pickled cherries, or serve them any way other than out-of-hand (pitted cherries are a bit messy to eat that way).
Pitting cherries is also a good idea when you're lucky enough to have too many cherries to use promptly. Using one of the methods, pit the leftover cherries and freeze them to use in recipes later on.
Do You Need a Cherry Pitter?
With kitchen utensil drawers being the crowded mess that they universally are, it's understandable that you might not want to buy yet another thing. But it really all comes down to how often you intend to perform that task. If you bake cherry pie numerous times a year or like to freeze large batches of cherries to use later, a cherry pitter might be a worthwhile gadget to have. (And if it helps to justify its place in your drawer, a cherry pitter will also pit olives.)