My local Safeway had beautiful Washington cherries on sale for $1.99/lb this weekend, one of the benefits of living in the PNW! I decided to grab a couple of bags and toss them in the dehydrator for use later, since I’m a little ahead right now on fresh things to eat around here.
I’ve never owned a cherry pitter. I’m like Alton Brown of the Food Network (who you’ll probably hear me quote here, ad nauseum … to the point where you’ll wonder if I’m stalking him or something *chuckles* … but I find myself agreeing with him more times than not) … I don’t like unitaskers. In this case, he and I agree completely. My kitchen is full enough as it is, so I try to avoid those special little tools that have one use, and one use only … no matter how geeky/cool they are.
In the past, I’ve always simply taken a knife, cut the cherry in half, and thumped the seed out with my thumbnail. It worked. I ended up with beautiful half-cherries, and they worked … but this time I decided I’d like to try drying some whole pitted cherries instead.
I’d seen someone online back last year (and if I remembered the exact link to the item, I’d cite it here … but I don’t) using a small piece of metal pipe, approx. one-half inch in diameter, to pit their cherries. Well, I started looking around my house for an alternative … and inspiration hit:
As you can tell, my video editing and production skills are very new, but will hopefully improve with time here at AFoodJourneyToGo
So, I might not be perfect … but the pipe stem out of our big coffee urn was perfect for the job of pitting cherries. It allowed me to push all the pits right out in record time. I was ready to go to the next step in less than an hour, even with two big bags of cherries to finish.
To dehydrate cherries, you need to “crack” the skin after you pit them. Set a large pot of water on the stove and heat it to boiling. Drop the cherries in by handfuls, and let them boil for 30-60 seconds, depending on how big/fat they are. At the end of the boiling time, scoop them out with a slotted spoon (an Asian “spider” strainer works perfect here, too) and drop them into a bowl of water and ice cubes. Cool water won’t work. You need the shock of them going from very hot … to very cold … in order to condition the skin properly for drying.
Place individual cherries on your drying racks in a single layer. Let dry until leathery, but still slightly sticky. Store in sealed plastic bags.
For more information about dehydrating fruits and more, in addition to all sorts of other ways to preserve food for long-term storage, I always start with the National Center for Home Food Preservation, a Department of Agriculture research facility based at the University of Georgia. Their extensive online information may not cover every single food you’d like to preserve, but it’s an excellent place to start, regardless.