Being a Niagara native and having met many people while working as a crop scout, I was fortunate enough to keep some as lifelong friends. Paula Bryk is one of them. She is reviving her family farm in Jordan, Ontario also known now as “20 Valley”.
Her farm, 20 Valley Harvest, is undergoing a rebuilding and rebranding of sorts (if speaking in business terms) after withstanding several generations in the same family as well as the loss of her father, who last ran the farm at capacity, a few years back. I have been helping with the farm’s promotions, resource development and social media campaign in the past few months.
Even though cherry season is just past the blossom stage and the immature fruit is starting to appear, I had to buy some ripe but un-local ones. Gasp! The reason: recipe development! It’s one of my favourite things to do (Need help with your farm or food business?…. Nutrition Bites Consulting to the rescue!).
Some of the 20 Valley Harvest Facebook posts include educating the public on the nutrition, preparation and uses of cherries. One deterring issue with fresh cherries is having to pit them for most recipes. Many people buy the tart (sour) and sometimes the sweet ones already pitted in pails. (Nutrition note: they are usually sweetened with added sugar! Check the labels!).
Others that purchase cherries in large quantities might splurge the average $15 – 20 cost of a hand-held cherry pitter.
Being a frugal PHEc, I found some “hacks” on the good ol’ internet to pit cherries without buying a one-use item or processed and less healthy options.
I enlisted by youngest daughter to help. Not a good idea. Every hack failed. (So it’s not as easy as “Even a kid can do it!”…)
Hours after the initial attempt, I decided to try them for myself. Here’s how the home hacks brought havoc to the cherries:
- Chopstick & Beer Bottle
- Straw & Beer Bottle
- Paperclips – regular and plastic coated
The Chopstick & Beer Bottle method was the winner! It still didn’t work perfectly though. With softer cherries, the pit sometimes stays attached to the flesh. A second attempt aiming at the pit and flesh usually gets it off into the bottle. It’s not as clean as the video makes it out to be, but it definitely saves your hands from looking like you are a mass murderer.
These worked well for about 6-8 cherries but then started to collapse and fold with the repeated pressure and moisture. Tip: It’s still a great way to do it but you will need several straws as they begin to bend and break under the “pitting pressure”.
The Paperclip method did not work at all. I’m assuming we needed hard/firmer cherries as well as perhaps the video showed a different cherry variety than I had purchased. We used two different kinds of paper clips (regular and plastic coated) to make sure, but it was a complete fail and made a huge mess.
So if you are attempting to pit a whole bunch of cherries this season (be sure to make a trip to 20 Valley Harvest Pick Your Own or Market Stand!), I suggest the Chopstick & Beer Bottle method – easiest and cleanest hands down!
Cherries spray their colourful sweetness with almost any pitter you use – home hack or store bought! So don’t forget to NOT wear your favourite clothes when cherry pitting. Actually, if you can do it – set up a mini kitchen outside during the summer season. I do a lot of prep work outside on a table beside my BBQ in the summer. Also, if you are of age, cherry pitting is also a good excuse to have a beer on the patio before you get to work. It’s in the name of saving money and reducing your added sugar intake (pitted cherries in pails), right? Well, you can try convincing people you (or someone else) a beer is a necessary tool in order to bake and cook with cherries.
Don’t drink or know someone who does? You could always snatch a soda pop bottle instead (but I’m definitely not going to be encouraging more added sugar…).
Happy summer season in Ontario! Enjoy the harvests, support local farmers, grow your own when you can and get cooking with cherries! Use my advice on cherry hacks and it won’t be “the pits” anymore!