Cherry pits are part of the package of the cherry. Eating around it (and building up a little pile of pits as evidence of your handiwork) is one of the simple joys of summer. But there is a time when the cherry pit must go, and that’s when you’re cooking. A pit-filled pie not only sounds unpleasant, but downright treacherous. The same goes for jams, jellies, compotes, or whatever reduction or sauce you may be creating with cherries.
Enter the cherry pitter. In theory, it allows you to extract the pit with precision, rather than having to use a paring knife to get out each pit, one by one. The classic shape is a kind of culinary hole punch that uses a spring-loaded mechanism to push the pit out while the cherry stays in tact — again, in theory. Common complaints of more traditional models are not only that they take a lot of effort to squeeze but that they also can splat cherry juice and be messy.
There are larger models, which still require individual individual pulls for each cherry but allow you to feed the cherries into the machine with a hopper, kind of like the way ground meat gets put into sausage casings. A bit easier, perhaps, but also bulky. Unless you are making cherry compote for everyone you know, or running a cherry pie side hustle on the weekends, a giant cherry pitter, no matter how elegant, seems silly. As appealing as a pitter may seem when you're suddenly elbow-deep in bing cherries, for most of us, this tool is a gimmick.
Luckily, there's a simple hack that gets the job done. Just like imperfect pitters, there are a number of imperfect hacks floating around on the internet: paperclips, straws, and chopsticks have all been employed to get the pit out. My favorite method, which also happens to be free, I first came across courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen, though versions of it are floating around on YouTube as well. It combines the best of the cherry pitter with the cost-cutting benefits of DIY.
Instead holding the cherry with your hand, place it on top of a glass bottle. Wine bottles are the most easy to find on hand (at least if you’re me), but a glass soda bottle would work too, or any bottle that is narrow enough to allow a cherry to perch on top. Place the cherry on top, and push through with a stiff straw (reusable works well here) or a chopstick. Repeat as much as needed. Unlike traditional pitters, the pits stay corralled at the bottom of the bottle. It also helps contain the juice splatter a little bit more.
Afterwards, you can simply recycle the bottle with the pits inside, but you also have the option to fish them all back out, if you so desire. It's about as effective as a cherry pitter, using stuff that's already laying around the house — and it won't gather dust till the next time you decide to make a cherry pie (probably July 4, 2018 if we're being real).