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I'd like to prepare cherry preserves (/marmalade), but I'd like to save on the time it takes to remove the pits. I'm considering cooking them whole, with gentle mashing, then removing the pits once at the end.

The only problem is the analogy with apple seeds. Apple seeds contain a small amount of arsenic that makes them dangerous for humans (and also for dogs) when eaten in large quantities.

Is it safe to cook cherries with the pits? Ideally I'd like a reference to be sure. Is there any harmful substance? Do factories remove pits beforehand?

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    I'd take the time to pit the cherries before cooking them it will be easier to remove them instead of digging in the preserve to fish out the pits. – Max Aug 15 '17 at 15:03
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    Split pits are likely to effect the taste of the product, and cooking them is likely to cause more to split. Commercially they are almost certain to use cherry pitters. Home pitters are a pain to use, but are much easier than hand pitting and should be available through places like mail order seed and tree companies and other sources. – dlb Aug 15 '17 at 15:22
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http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/slideshow/foods-that-can-kill-you Which I think may be overstating the danger, but, their claim is:

After some quick Googling, we found that hydrogen cyanide is lethal at about 1.52 milligrams per kilogram, meaning that it takes little more than 0.1 grams (a dime weighs about one gram) of the toxin to dispatch a 150-pound human. A single cherry yields roughly 0.17 grams of lethal cyanide per gram of seed, so depending on the size of the kernel, ingesting just one or two freshly crushed pits can lead to death.

Again, I think that may be overstated, but should still give you cause to avoid the risk. The pits do not actually contain cyanide, but do contain a related compound that digest in the body into cyanide. Incidental swallowing of a pit is not the issue, it is the kernel which has the compounds.

The earlier comment regarding flavor: These chemicals tend to be a very bitter flavor, one that people tend to dislike. This tends to act as a warning "not good" causing us not to eat such things because we do not like the flavor and thus note poisoning ourselves. Not foolproof, but it helps. A few in a batch may not actually hurt you unless you ate entire jars in one sitting, but that does not mean it will be good for you, and the bitterness may well effect the flavor. My experience, though anecdotal, with stone fruits is that more pits will split and crack after heating than before so the risks of off flavor or even tainting may increase.

If this is something you wish to make in quantity or more than once, I would look into investing in of of the small pitters available for home use.

  • I couldn't have hoped for a more pertinent or perfect answer. I have a nice pitter, but sitting with a pound or two of cherries is hardly a pleasant pastime. Perhaps I'll experiment with removing sooner from the heat to increase the yield. – Calaf Aug 15 '17 at 16:39
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    @Calaf there is a reason such tedious and repetitive tasks were done in groups in our (great-...) grandmothers' time. Chatting while working makes the time fly. Today, and for those without helpers, listening to the radio, TV, audio books or podcasts can be distracting enough to get the job done without "suffering" too much. – Stephie Aug 15 '17 at 18:09
  • @Stephie Good call. It is a pain to do, especially if you have a single cheery pitter (though those are nice if you want stem on). I had a 5 hole one that I wish I knew how my ex ended up with it. She never used it. It was faster, but still a pain. Jammed constantly and seem to take as long to clean as it took to actually use. – dlb Aug 15 '17 at 19:26

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