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The Best Ways to Pit Sour Cherries (Even without a Cherry Pitter)


I love picking sour cherries, but pitting them afterwards is a terrible chore!! There are so many solutions that promise to be really quick, but do they actually work? And does a traditional cherry pitter actually work on smaller sour cherries?

I’ve taken out all the guess work for you and tested six different methods of pitting cherries, and am sharing the pros and cons of each so you can get pitting those pails of cherries faster.

How do you Pit Cherries?

If you’re brand new to the world of harvesting and preserving fruit, pitting cherries means to remove the seed (or pit) from the cherry. Unfortunately, the pits of cherries are too hard to eat, so you have to pit each and every one.

Last year I tested 6 different methods of pitting:

  • knife
  • chopstick
  • metal straw
  • single cherry pitter
  • multiple cherry pitter
  • crank cherry pitter

While all of them work, I definitely found my favourites! Also, if you want to purchase one of the actual cherry pitters, it’s best to think ahead and purchase a couple of weeks before it’s cherry season. I found last year that if you wait until the season is here, everything is sold out.

Let’s start with the first three. . .

Knives are great because you probably have lots of them and they’re cheap. The process with a knife is messy, but fast enough.

Related: Sour Cherry Jam, Sour Cherry Pie, Sour Cherry Tarts

I was excited to try the chopsticks, but found them cumbersome to use. I think the idea is to push the seed out with the end of the chopstick, but it didn’t work very efficiently for me. I quickly went back to using the knife.

The steel straw was really easy to use, and you could quickly pit many cherries. The pit just falls out and the cherry stays on the straw, so it’s really efficient. (I’ll show you a video below.)

Do Regular Cherry Pitters Actually Work with Sour Cherries?

I was hesitant to use a regular cherry pitter on sour cherries, because of the sour cherries smaller size. To my knowledge, cherry pitters are designed for regular sized sweet cherries. Here’s what happened. . .

Thanks to reader Natalia Stinn for this photo

The six-cherries-at-at-time cherry pitter is very efficient to use. You get great results nearly every time and it gets the job done quickly. The single cherry pitter was really annoying to use. It’s slow going, and the one I bought wasn’t made very well, so the mechanism kept getting stuck.

I was most nervous about using the machine with the crank, but it was surprisingly efficient. Just watch the cherries, as it will occasionally skip a cherry and you’ll end up with a seed (and an intact sour cherry) still in your bowl of cherries.

While these machines are fast, the only downside is the cost and trickiness of finding them in an actual store and not online. If you wait until you need them to purchase, they’re either sold out in person, or take too long to ship–especially in 2020 with the pandemic.

My Favourite Cherry Pitting Hack–No Fancy Equipment Required!

After trying all six methods, my favourite, and the one I recommend to others, is the stainless steel straw. It’s quick, efficient, low-cost, and widely available. Plus, those stainless steel straws have another use, so you’re not just buying something that you’ll only use once a year.

How do you Freeze Sour Pitted Cherries?

Once you’re done cleaning the cherries, it’s time to cook and freeze them. I have two different methods of freezing, depending on what I intend to use my sour cherries for.

If you want to use the cherries a little at a time for things like in yogurt and oatmeal, freeze them on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Make sure you put down a silicone sheet, parchment paper, or plastic wrap first. If you don’t the cherries might be difficult to remove.

For use in baking and pies, I’ll mix them with a little sugar–just a few heaping tablespoons per 4 litre bucket of berries. Enough sugar to preserve the colour, but not enough to obliterate the sour taste. Then I’ll package them in 2 cup and 6 cup amounts in freezer bags.


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Kristen Raney

Kristen Raney

Kristen is a former farm kid turned urban gardener who owns the popular gardening website, Shifting Roots.  She is obsessed with growing flowers and pushing the limits of what can be grown in her zone 3b garden.  She also loves to grow tomatoes, but oddly enough, dislikes eating them raw.

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Hi, I'm Kristen and I help new gardeners learn to grow their own vegetables and beautify their yards. I also share recipes that use all that delicious garden produce. Grab a coffee (and your gardening gloves) and join me for gardening tips, simple recipes, and the occasional DIY, all from the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

P.S. First time gardener? You'll want to download the quick start gardening guide below!