CherriesJuly 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.