Some folks will do anything to escape the tedium of pitting cherries, but I find the rhythm of it strangely satisfying. There's a juvenile delight to be had in letting the splattered juices re-create the opening scene of Kill Bill in my kitchen, and I'm not above snickering at cherry-stained handprints on a paper towel. Surveying the carnage, it's not just the thought of cherry jam and double-crusted pie that makes it all worthwhile, but the thrifty pleasure of knowing that those obnoxious little pits won't go to waste.
Oh, no. Their destiny is far more delicious.
If you're a dessert aficionado, you're probably familiar with noyaux—the tiny, almond-flavored kernels nestled inside the pit of every stone fruit. Noyaux (particularly those from peaches and apricots) are used to flavor everything from marzipan to almond extract, but that's not what I'm talking about. Frankly, I'm too damn lazy to take a hammer to each and every cherry pit so I can pluck out the kernels, which have to be cleaned, ground, and roasted to neutralize their amygdalin...a precursor of cyanide—fun!
My appreciation for The Bride notwithstanding, I've no interest in flirting with that kind of danger.
What I'm talking about is the pit itself, whole and intact to keep its pesky noyau locked safely away. Coated in cherry juice, with bits of cherry flesh still clinging here and there and a faint nuttiness from the shell, simple cherry pits can add a splash of seasonal flavor (and color!) to so many things.
Out of everything, my favorite application is a cold infusion of cherry pits and cream. The cream's mild dairy flavor serves as a neutral backdrop for the pits, with a richness that amplifies their aroma. The cold steep also preserves a sense of freshness that translates beautifully to softly whipped cream.
It's as simple as this: Add a handful of cherry pits to a cup of cream, shove it in the fridge overnight, strain into a bowl of sugar, and whip. Sure, it could be doctored with a drop of rose water or a spoonful of kirsch, but I'm in love with the something-from-nothing simplicity.
It's a subtle accent for everything from chocolate ice cream to Buttermilk Vanilla Waffles, and, of course, the perfect complement to cherry pie (and yes, that recipe is coming soon). You can also freeze the pits to pull out later in the year, infusing wintry desserts with a burst of summer freshness. Chocolate cherry hot cocoa, anyone?
So the next time you're faced with a mountain of cherries, know that your efforts will be doubly rewarded. Save those pits, and make the most of your seasonal fruit!