July 3, 2009


As a pastry chef  I have mixed feelings about cherry season. On the one hand I LOVE the desserts I make with them- the buttery tarts, the custardy clafoutis.  I know it is summer when beautiful dark red cherries appear in the markets.

What I am not that fond of  is pitting the cherries. It’s tedious to pit 5 cups of cherries for a single pie but when you make 5 pies a day,  it’s enough to make you check the calendar to see how much longer they will be around. Pastry chefs share pitting tricks– wear rubber gloves; tie an apron around your neck to protect your chef coat from cherry juice,  put parchment paper down to control the mess. The biggest ongoing debate is the best way to pit a cherry-with a paring knife or a cherry pitter?

A knife cuts the cherry neatly in two so you have  perfect halves. (This method is good for when you will see the cherries on top of a dessert.)  But it is slow work.  A pitter is faster but some mangle the cherry.  Luckily a couple of years ago OXO came out with a great cherry pitter.  The pit pops right out of the cherry,  you don’t have to dig it out, and the cherry remains relatively intact. It also has a plastic guard on the bottom which minimizes the cherry juice going everywhere.  (I use a pitter for any recipe where cherries are baked in something.)

Cherry season is short.  California cherries ripen first and are in the stores in May and June. The dominant variety is the Bing.  Cherries from the Northwestern States are available June through August. In this area red cherry varieties are grown but also the Rainer which has a creamy-yellow flesh blushed with red.  So get our your paring knifes and cherry pitters and get pitting, it’s worth it.


  1. Love cherries. Hate the mess. Thanks for the great advice!Gonna go to Target and buy my OXO pitter right away.

  2. Hello Emily! Your web site is awesome and I’ll be stopping by again! I’m not a chef (but I have sent many of my 12th grade students on to CIA and Johnson and Wales–does that count for something? Probably not :).), but I love to bake and cook. Have always wanted to take one of those week-long pastry courses at CIA in Poughkeepsie!
    I don’t pit cherries— you’re so right, way too much work. Don’t mind eating them, though. I love the Ranier cherries but they are REALLY expensive out here. I do a lot with different types of raspberries and blueberries, however: jams, coffeecakes with cream cheese, cobblers, et cetera. I’m looking forward to reading more!

  3. I love cherries, but I’ve never messed with baking/cooking them because of – well – the mess. Now I may have to reconsider!

    BTW: I’m here at the recommendation of Purple Flowers. So glad I stopped by!

  4. Dear Emily,

    Lovely blog and tips. I was directed here by your sweet sister-in-law – I think I used the adjective “gorgeous” twice on her post. I’m a dessert girl and looking forward to perusing the books.

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