How to Pit Cherries Without a Cherry Pitter – Easy and Fast
Using sound judgment to be more self-reliant.
Learn how to pit cherries without a pitter, using a simple method taught to us by a cherry grower. This method works best for tart cherries or very ripe sweet cherries. If you have firm cherries, we have options for those, too.
We live in northeast Wisconsin, just minutes away from the Door County peninsula. Door County is one of the biggest tart cherry producing areas in the United States – perfect for cherry pie. They have a number of pick your own orchards.
The first year we went cherry picking, we had my mom and nephew with us. We picked two five gallon buckets of them. As we were paying the bill, the orchard owner asked how we were going to pit them.
Never having picked before, we had no idea how to remove the pits. (Worry about it later, right?) She leaned in close, and told us she would share the secret of the world’s cheapest cherry pitter.
Then she grabbed a paper clip and proceeded to demonstrate how to quickly and easily pit a big pile of cherries. We’ve used the method ever since for the bulk of the cherries we process.
First, unfold the paper clip, then stuff it in the stem end of the cherry, and scoop out the pit. Many people use a hair pin in the same way, but make sure you use an older pin. Today’s hair pins are often made quite cheaply, and the coating comes off in the cherries.
There are several other common kitchen items you can use to remove the pits for your favorite cherry recipe, including:
To use a chopstick, reusable drinking straw or pastry tip:
Remove the stem of the cherry. Poke the chopstick (or straw, etc.) in from the stem end and push the pit out the bottom of the cherry.
If your fruit is very firm, it can help to cut an “x” shape in the bottom to make it easier to push the pit out. Some people like to place the cherries on top of an empty bottle, and push the pits into the bottle.
Reusable straws work better than disposable ones, because they are strong enough to push the pit through without bending. They do build up cherry mush inside over time.
Using a knife and a cutting board – this is a good option when you need pretty fruit halves for decoration. It tends to be a little slower than the other methods. Simply slide the knife in a circle around the pit, pry the fruit apart, and pull the pit out.
(Note – cherries are great with no bake cheesecake.)
I hope you’ve found the tips for how to pit cherries without a cherry pitter useful. If you’d like to have a commercial pitter available, these are the ones we’ve tried.
The scissor type cherry pitter – this works, but your hand starts to cramp after a while. It also likes to squirt juice.
My friend, Laura, who lives in the heart of Michigan cherry country, recommends the Leifheit 37200 Cherrymat Cherrystone Remover. It’s a plunger type with a bin below to catch the pits.
P.S. Yes, this is the real color of the tart cherries as they come off the tree. A couple of friends asked when I posted pictures. 🙂
We have dozens of canning and preserving guides on the site to help you preserve the harvest.
Originally published in 2014, last updated in 2021.
We just picked cherries from our cherry tree last week and I was thinking how it’s a pain to get rid of the pits. Thanks for the tips.
Do you put the paperclip through the top or bottom, or does it not matter?
I usually go right in the stem hole, which is naturally open on tart cherries.
My longtime handyman and dad for hire, Walt Stumpf, suggested I visit your site. I love the post and video and it couldn’t be more timely, We just returned with 10 pounds of tart cherries from Door county. I bought a pitter but would like to put the kids to work too–paper clip. My most recent post has a recipes that does not require pitting the cherries–Vanilla Lime Spirited Cherries for canning. Check it out. http://localglobalkitchen.com/vanilla-lime-spirited-cherries/
I look forward to reading and watching more of your posts.
Lisa at the Local Global Kitchen in Milwaukee
Thank you so much for this post! I was in much the same situation you were in the 90’s, but now I have 7 lbs. of cherries in my freezer, and no idea how to pit them all. I knew I couldn’t afford a real pitter. Thank you so very much for this practical, money saving tip! Now I just have to buy some paperclips, as it seems even my junk drawer doesn’t contain one!
Glad to be of help. I’ve never tried thawed cherries, but it should work.
My mom’s from the Thumb of Michigan, and she has always used the paper clip method for pitting. In fact, because we always had a lot to do and your fingers could get tired of holding the clip, she just rubber-banded the end you weren’t using to pit the cherries to the bottom of half of a wooden clothespin. Sped things up nicely!
Not sure where this information came about a paper clip, but it was not from Cherry Lane Orchards. Our preferred method is on our website.
I don’t remember the name of the orchard, but it was on the Bay side of Door County, up past Sturgeon Bay. It was over ten years ago, so I don’t recall, and we haven’t been back since we found your place. 🙂
(cont.) a good video presentation though! Each person finds their preferred method for those delicious Door County Cherries.
Just got an awesome cherry pitter at Walmart in the produce department. It was only $6, and pits 6 cherries at once!!
where are you and which walmart
What a great tutorial. This is one of the best life hacks ever! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Thanks, Joann. Is it cherry season in your area?
Arrg! Where were you last week when I needed you?! I pitted about 10 half pints worth using the stapler type. The biggest problem with this is that it doesn’t always (as in MOST of the time) pop the pit out. My mom used to have one that had a sort of a plunger motion, with a chute for the cherries and a container for the pits. Oh well, I still have several pounds that I will use a paper clip on. Thanks for the demo!
Yes, we’ve found paper clips to be more reliable at getting the pit out, too, compared to the staple type pitters.
Thank you so much for posting the recipe of Old Fashion Rhubarb Pudding. As a kid my mom used rhubarb so many ways even eating it raw. To sour for me but one of my daughters loves it raw. Wish I had some of those old recipes as they have now been lost.
I love old cookbooks and recipes. It’s like stepping back in time.
Have you tried this with sweet cherries? Thanks for the great demonstration!
It doesn’t work quite as well with sweet cherries, unless they are very ripe so that the stone releases without a lot of effort.
Hi, I decided to fight the birds for my cherries this year. Only had a couple of pounds and Googled ideas for removing stone. I found a post that suggested a plastic drinks straw which you just push through and stone comes out through stalk hole. Does eventually get build-up in straw but if you cut straws in four you can wash them through or cheap enough to just bin them. It works as well as my staple one I can’t find and cheaper.
Perfect timing! Our tart cherry tree is loaded, I know what I’m doing tomorrow!! Thanks. 😊
Ours is loaded, too, but only about half grown. I hoping we can keep it watered enough to get a harvest. Still no rain here.
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How to Pit Cherries Without a Cherry Pitter – Easy and Fast