It’s the pits!

Pitting cherries is a messy, juicy, hands-in-your-food process—and worth every bit of effort.  A pie, cobbler or crisp made with fresh tart cherries is a fruit-lover’s dream.

There’s more than one way to pit a cherry.  My grandmother used an old-fashioned hairpin—the loop end is just the right size to slide under the pit and pop it out.  A standard-size paper clip with one side bent open works almost as well.  Or, for a few dollars you can invest in a cherry pitter—a scissors-like tool that hold the cherry and pushes the pit out in one smooth motion.

I tested both methods last summer by working my way through 8 quarts of Boekhut’s delicious tart cherries (one to eat fresh, one to bake right away, and six to tuck away like jewels in the freezer for future pies.)  A carefully timed test showed the pitter to be slightly faster (but only by two or three minutes per quart). The paper-clip method is slightly juicier. Both methods are one cherry at a time, and more fun with company.  My grandmother might have gotten different results with her hairpin—and I’m still trying to make a cherry pie as good as the ones I remember her making.

—Sue Futrell