Kitchen 101: Painless Cherry Pitting

It’s true that I miss the avocados, dates, and exotic summer surprises of Northern California, but I’m quickly feeling pleased to trade these all for the peaches + cherries of Colorado summer. Cherries hit the farmer’s market this week and, in true form, I bought as many pounds as my basket would hold. And, I bought more each time I went to the market this week; I just can’t get enough of them and stockpile them as if I’m worried when I get to the grocery the next day, the cherry crop will be all eaten up. I buy those that are nice and round, with bright green stems. No bruises. Typically I pop one in my mouth before I shovel them in my cart, just to be sure they’re good. Having a bumper crop of cherries comes in awfully handy; them make a lovely dessert while we watch movies in the evenings, and I typically leave a bowl of them out for snacking all day. That and I have a constantly growing list of recipes to try, and things to do with these beauties while they’re in town. These made with cherries are a favorite. I’ve eyed this to take on a bike ride, and these to spread on grilled bread with cured yogurt . I know that this would be fantastic, and I just made this as a thank you gift for a friend who thankfully loves cherries AND pie. And all of these cherry adventures start with pitted cherries. Cherries Pitted + Cherry-Stained Hands I’ve never owned a cherry pitter, and we’ve been playing the #minsgame around here, so I wasn’t about to go buy one; there’s nothing worse than having a piece of equipment staring at you most of the year. I’ve always just pitted the cherries by hand because you don’t really need any fancy equipment to do this dirty work; our grandmothers didn’t have anything snazzy from Williams-Sonoma, and so long as you can keep as much of the juice in the cherries (and get those pits out as quickly as possible so you can move on to EATING the cherries) you’re well on your way. So marinated on it a bit (riding bikes up above Boulder, which really will work up an appetite for cherry treats) and realized that we already had everything I needed to properly pit all these cherries, and have fun while doing it. When I got home I cracked open a bottle of beer and guzzled it. This was excellent recovery from my bike ride AND it was exactly the preparation I needed to be ready to pit these cherries. Here’s why. All you really need to successfully pit cherries is a mechanism to push the pit out without squashing the cherry and releasing all the juice. The mouth of a beer bottle is just smaller than a cherry, and the end of a chopstick is an excellent little probe to push it out. See my little set up below:   

 This method won’t leave your fingers, face or arms juiceless, so be sure to wear an old tee-shirt or an apron while you’re beer drinking + cherry pitting. When you’re done pitting, discard the bottle (or dump out the seeds + plant them!) You’ll want to use the pitted cherries quite quickly so they don’t brown. You can keep them refrigerated for up to 24 hours before using them, especially if you’ll be baking them. Regardless of when you bake them, it’s a good idea to squeeze some lemon juice on them so they keep nicely. 

Pitting So! Get yourself these things:

-a few beers (in bottles! Make sure the mouths of the bottles are slightly smaller than a cherry.)

-a few pounds of cherries (most recipes call for at least a pound. That amazing cherry pie above calls for three pounds!)

-a chopstick

-some friends to chat and cherry pit with.


When your beer is empty, wash out the bottle and set a cherry on top. Then push the chopstick through the cherry, pushing the pit out into the bottom of the bottle. Et voila! Repeat with all the cherries!

Your painless cherry pitting work will be done in a snap, and you’ll be ready to bake, or grill, or pickle, or just plain eat all those cherries, and you’ll have fun doing it. How are you using cherries this summer? I’d love to hear your ideas – heaven knows we have LOTS of cherries to pit! – xo L