When you are working with fresh cherries, it is necessary to remove their pits before you can safely put them into a recipe. There are traditionalists who say that you get more flavor when you cook the cherries with the pits still inside (“traditional” cherry clafouti are notorious for this), but anyone who has unexpectedly chomped down on a cherry pit in a pie or other baked good knows that cherry pits can be quite hazardous and it is best just to take them out ahead of time.
There are a wide variety of cherry pitters out there that will help you get the job of pitting cherries done smoothly and quickly. If you don’t have a cherry pitter, there are a few tools you can use to pit cherries more easily. You can us a pairing knife, but I find that pairing knives can get a bit messy and can take off too much of the flesh of the cherry along with the pits.
I like to use a thick plastic straw or the end of a small funnel to remove cherry pits when I’m not using a pitter. Thicker plastic straws, like the reusable straws that come with insulated mugs, are usually the best choice since they are sturdier and more durable than your average plastic straw and will make the process go very smoothly. Remove the stems and press the end of the straw straight down into the cherry until it comes out of the opposite side – with the pit at the end. The advantage to using a straw over a funnel is that you can do multiple cherries with the straw, but will need to pull each cherry off before pitting the next one.
The cherries will end up with two holes in them, but you won’t see them if you’re planning to bake with the cherries. If you are planning to use the cherries for something like fruit salad, you might want to take your time with a paring knife to more carefully remove the pits to keep the cherries as pristine as possible.