Posted in Farm, Fruits, Healthy, Home Economics, Local, Opinions & Commentaries, Product Testing

Product Review: Starfrit Cherry Pitter

Cherries are in full season, but my “season” started months ago.  I undertook a project  with 20 Valley Harvest Farms.  I have been responsible for many things including designing unique recipes that highlight not only cherries, but whole food, local and Canadian ingredients (Professional Home Economists can be a great source for recipe writing!).

So with so many recipes to design, test and re-test I also indirectly tested out several ways to pit cherries for the average consumer.

I first tried home hacks and methods that required only household items.  You can read that post here: Cherry Pitting: Home Hacks on Trial. Even though I am against having too many appliances and gadgets in the kitchen, I went looking for a possible way to get through pitting tons of cherries so I could focus on the recipes (especially when a test completely fails and I need to re-do it fast!).

So I research and find the single, stainless steel cherry pitter.  One was at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $18.99.  I also found the Starfrit Cherry Pitter.  With the option of “6 cherries at once”, I was very interested.  It was plastic so I was a bit hesitant, but with the price tag of $14.99 at my local Canadian Tire, I considered it for 3 weeks.  (Now when you search during the season, a ton more pop up when searching online.)

After buying out of season cherries from Washington (USA), spending tons of money and losing lots of time for the other tasks I needed to complete for 20 Valley Harvest farm promotions, I bit the bullet and pulled out my wallet.

Did you know that the average recipe development cost charged to companies is about $350 PER RECIPE?! It’s not just the time, but the cost of ingredients, appliances and even energy – electricity for stoves, appliances – add to the cost of a recipe to be developed and tested.

Being frugal, I thought I’d attempt the Starfrit one since it was cheaper and the idea of doing 6 cherries at once compared to the traditional, one at a time, made me travel to Canadian Tire.  When I asked, the employee didn’t even know where to find it and she said they must not carry it.  I thanked her and noted her lack of confidence of an obviously, not well requested item.  So I kept searching the aisle for my solution to my “bloody” cherry hell (I mean problem….).  Well, low and behold, after searching inch by inch, there it was… quietly sitting there with no indication of how purposeful it really was.

So home I went, with a lighter wallet and a hope that this weird contraption was going to make my life easier.

So instead of just showing you photos of how it went, I thought I’d use my daughter to film a quick impromptu video of how the Starfrit Cherry Pitter works from beginning to end. ​

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​PHEc Tips to get the most out of this gadget:

  • The fresher the cherries, the more likely the pit will not stay attached to the tiny flap of skin.
  • Not just for pies, it’s a great way to make maraschino cherries for cocktails, garnishes and additions to salads.
  • A great tool if you are also going to dehydrate/dry these into cherraisins (I made up the word and pronounce it “sher-raisins” or “chair-raisins” – which do you prefer?).
  • Store with your canning gear and put away for the season, or with your colander for reminders when washing other fruits, berries and veggies.

Here’s what I think after testing out the Starfrit Cherry Pitter:

Pros

  • Easy to use – It has the same action as a stapler and a child can do it without help.
  • Dishwasher safe – It comes apart to clean all three parts and no handwashing required.
  • Quick – Less work and mess than home hacks, plus this type does 6 cherries at a time!
  • Easier than other pitters – For people that don’t have good hand and finger coordination (Ex: Persons with MS, arthritis, fibromyalgia, advanced or very young ages) – no balancing or strong grip required.
  • Compact – It stores flat with a small locking tab that keeps it flat for storage.
  • Encourages healthy eating – Mr R Ginger ate an entire bowl in 5 minutes when I offered him “some” since they were already pitted.  I’m sure children and everyone in the family will do the same (we never got a chance 😉 ).

Cons

  • Cost is more than home hacks or commercially prepared ones
  • Space – You’ll need to store it somewhere when not in use.

Final Thought:  Yes, I do recommend this item.

IMG_6374If you are picking cherries or making jam or pies, this is a great and healthy alternative to home hacks or commercially prepared with added sugar (10% for those buckets of pitted cherries seasonally available usually).  This became my go to for my recipe testing.  It has held up great under many dishwasher runs, two kids using it and the countless cherries sacrificed for 3 unique recipes designed by Nutrition Bites for 20 Valley Harvest Farms.

I’m not all for new gadgets, or spending money (frugal PHEc here!), but this saved me time and made it easier to enjoy cherries more this season.  I’m happy to have it in my home, and I know next year I will be ready to pull it out.  This cherry pitter is totally worth not looking like a red-handed, mass-murderer during cherry season when you are up for serving delicious pies, tarts, jams, salads and cakes quickly!

 

Note: All opinions are my own.  This was not sponsored by Starfrit and I have not received any compensation or free items to recommend this product.

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Posted in Farm, Fruits, Gluten Free, Healthy, Home Economics, Local, Ontario, Opinions & Commentaries

Cherry Pitting: Home Hacks on Trial

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.

So I put them to the test as I was developing a recipe (you’ll have to stay tuned to 20 Valley Harvest & Nutrition Bites websites for the recipe reveal in June).

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:

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  1. Chopstick & Beer Bottle
  2. Straw & Beer Bottle
  3. 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.


The Straw & Beer Bottle method works well with harder straws or thicker ones (the wide smoothie or frapuccino ones).  I used cute party ones made out of paper and food-safe ink from Presidents Choice.


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!