the best tomatoes to grow in pots

If you’re like many people, when you think of canning tomatoes, you don’t immediately think of canning cherry tomatoes. But if you have an abundance of cherry tomatoes, you may want to preserve them if you can’t eat all of them before they go bad.  

Also, if, like me, you’re an indoor gardener, you may find it difficult to grow full-size tomatoes, and yet still want to put some canned tomatoes in your pantry. In that case, canning cherry tomatoes is a great option. 

If you want to can cherry tomatoes either now or in the future, you’re in the right place! In this article I’ll provide information on canning cherry tomatoes two ways – raw pack and hot pack. I’ll also provide instructions and a recipe for quick pickling cherry tomatoes.

There are pros and cons to each method of preserving tomatoes, so you may want to try them all.  

Raw Pack Canning Cherry Tomatoes 

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Let’s start off with raw pack canning cherry tomatoes. Raw pack canning cherry tomatoes is by far the easiest way to preserve tomatoes because unlike whole tomatoes, you don’t need to blanch or skin the tomatoes before canning them.  

Ingredients for Canning Cherry Tomatoes 

All you need for canning cherry tomatoes are cherry tomatoes, salt, lemon juice, and boiling water.

Thankfully the ingredient list for raw pack canning cherry tomatoes is very short:  

  • Cherry tomatoes 
  • Bottled lemon juice (1 tablespoon per pint or 2 tablespoons per quart) OR citric acid (1/4 teaspoon per pint or 1/2 teaspoon per quart)
  • Salt (optional – 1/2 teaspoon per pint or 1 teaspoon per quart) 
  • Boiling water (approximately 1 cup per pint and 2 cups per quart, plus hot water for the canner) 

Raw Pack Canning Tomatoes – the Process

Now let’s get into the process of raw-pack canning cherry tomatoes. 

Step 1: Start Heating Water in Your Canner 

Since water bath canning requires so much water, it takes a lot of time to bring the water to a boil. Because of that, I like to make putting the water on to heat the first step in the process. That way, the water in the canner has time to heat while I do the rest of the steps.  

Before you add the water to the canner, place a canning rack in the bottom of the pot. I like to then put the empty jars into the canner so that I’ll know how much water to add to the canner. Pour water into the canner until the water covers the jars by at least an inch.  

Step 2: Prepare the Jars, Lids, and Rings

Next, remove the jars from the canner and wash them in hot, soapy water. There’s no need to sterilize the jars and lids, but you do want them clean. 

You’ll generally need one pint jar for 20-30 cherry tomatoes, or one quart jar for 40-60 cherry tomatoes. Note that this is just an estimate, because it depends on the size of your cherry tomatoes. As you’ll see in the next step, since I was using Husky Red Cherry Tomatoes, which are large, I used fewer tomatoes per pint. 

Pro tip: If you don’t have enough cherry tomatoes to run a full canner load, you can either can another water bath recipes that has the same processing time, OR add some jars of water to the fill up the canner the rest of the way. Either way, prepare enough jars to fill your canner. 

A note on quart size jars: Depending on the size of your canner, since the jars need to be completely covered with water, you may not be able to water bath can quarts. Be sure to follow the manufacturer instructions for your canner, when deciding whether or not to can pints or quarts.  

Step 3: Fill the Jars with Cherry Tomatoes

canning jar tightly packed with cherry tomatoes.

Once you have the water in your canner heating, and you’ve washed the jars, it’s time to fill your jars with cherry tomatoes!  

As I mentioned above, I’m canning Husky Cherry tomatoes, and they are indeed larger than most cherry tomatoes.  If you want to grow Red Husky Cherry Tomatoes, you can get the seeds from True Leaf Market.

Because of that, in spite of most recipes for canning cherry tomatoes recommending 20-30 cherry tomatoes per pint, I only needed 15 cherry tomatoes per pint. 

Pro tip: If you’re buying cherry tomatoes to can rather than using tomatoes from your garden, you can also consider the weight of the tomatoes to have a basic idea of how many you’ll need. To give you an idea, since my tomatoes were larger, I needed approximately 8.25 ounces (223 grams) of cherry tomatoes to fill each jar.  

When you fill the jar with your cherry tomatoes, you want to pack them as tightly as you can, without breaking the tomatoes.  

Step 4: Add Salt and Lemon Juice 

Next, I added salt and lemon juice to the jars. For each pint, I used 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice.  

Note that the salt is optional, but acid such as lemon juice (or citric acid) is NOT optional. This matters because I’m water bath canning the cherry tomatoes, and without the added acid, tomatoes need to be pressure canned.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
you need to add some type of acid such as lemon juice when water bath canning cherry tomateos.
Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint.

Step 5: Fill Your Jars with Boiling Water

When water bath canning cherry tomatoes, after filling the jars with tomatoes, pour in boiling water.

Once you’ve filled your jars with cherry tomatoes, the next step is to add boiling water, leaving 1/2″ of headspace.  

Step 7: Debubble  

using a debubbling tool to remove air bubbles from the jar of cherry tomatoes

After filling the jar with water, it’s important to debubble the jar. Debubbling is simply removing any trapped air bubbles.  

This is the debubbling tool that I use for this that you can pick up on Amazon. If you don’t have one of these tools, you can use chopsticks, a thin plastic spatula, or a plastic knife. The important thing is to avoid using metal, such as a metal knife. Metal can scratch, chip or otherwise compromise the “soundness” of your jars, which could result in the jar breaking during processing.   

To debubble the jar, simply run your debubbling tool of choice around the inside of the jar. If you want to be extra thorough, you can also poke around a bit in the middle of the jar as well.  

Step 8: Recheck Headspace 

Since debubbling removes trapped air bubbles, you’ll likely find that the water level dropped a bit. The tool that I use for debubbling doubles as a headspace checker. (You can get the tool here, on Amazon.) In the photo above, you can see that I have close to an inch of headspace, so I needed to add some additional water to the jar to bring it up to the recommended 1/2″ headspace.  

If by chance you have less than a 1/2″ headspace, use a spoon to remove small amounts of water until you have the proper amount of headspace.  

 Step 9: Wipe the Rims

wiping the rims of the canning jar before canning the cherry tomatoes.

Next, wipe the rims of your jars to remove any residue that may keep your jars from sealing properly. For instance, you may have dripped a bit of lemon juice or salt on the rim when filling the jars.  

Since this cherry tomato canning recipe doesn’t use fat such as oil, I just dipped a folded paper towel into water to wipe the rims.  

At this point, you’ll need to add the lids and rings to your jars, following the lid manufacturer’s instructions.  

Step 9: Place the Jars into Your Canner and Cover with Water  

Water bath canning cherry tomatoes in the Nesco Smart Canner.

Since you started heating your water early on in this process, it should be hot by now.  

Regardless of the type of canner you’re using, first put a rack in the bottom of the canner. I generally do this step before I add and heat the water. But if you forgot to place a rack in your canner, do it before adding the jars.  

Next, put the jars into your canner, making sure the tops of the jar are completely covered with water. Ideally, you’ll want the water to cover the jars by at least an inch. 

Step 10: Water Bath Can the Cherry Tomatoes 

Now it’s time to process the cherry tomatoes. After placing your filled canning jars into the canner and ensuring they are covered completely with water, bring the water up to a boil.  

 Once the water is boiling, set the timer for 35 minutes, adapting for altitude. For instance, if you are canning in an altitude above 1,000 feet, you’ll need to add some time to the 35 minutes.   

Pro tip: To better understand how to adapt canning recipes based on your altitude, check out my article How to Adapt Canning Recipes Based on Your Altitude.

Removing the cherry tomatoes from the canner.

After you’ve finished processing the cherry tomatoes, turn off the heat, and remove the lid. Allow the jars to sit in the hot water for about 5 minutes before removing them from the canner.  

Pro tip: Be sure to put a towel on your counter to put the jars on before removing them from the canner. If you place hot jars directly on a cool counter, the sudden change in temperature may cause the jars to break. 

Water Bath Canning Tomatoes in a Nesco Smart Canner 

I used my Nesco Smart Canner when canning the cherry tomatoes. If you also have a Nesco canner, here are the steps to take: 

Step 1: shut the lid and put it in the closed position. 

Step 2: Make sure the valve is on the exhaust position 

Be sure to set the valve in the Exhaust position when water bath canning anything in the Nesco canner.

Step 3: Select WB/Steam 

Press the WB/Steam button before putting in the time. The correct time for water bath canning pints of cherry tomatoes is 35 minutes, but I set the timer for 40 minutes since I’m at an altitude of 1640 feet.

Step 4: Using the TIME function, set the timer for 35 minutes, adjusting for Altitude. You can see that the timer on my canner is set for 40 minutes. I added 5 minutes on to the time due to my altitude. 

Step 5: Press the Start button. 

Once you’ve selected the WB/Steam button and put in the time, push the start button.

Step 7: Once there is a steady stream of steam, press the start button again. The timer will start counting down from there.  

Hot Pack Canning Cherry Tomatoes 

There are benefits to raw pack canning cherry tomatoes. The biggest benefit is that it’s super easy, since you don’t need to cook them ahead of time.  

However, there’s an advantage to the hot pack method as well. When you hot pack can cherry tomatoes, you can fit a lot more tomatoes in each jar. If you have a lot of tomatoes to can, or if you are limited on the number of jars you have available, then it’s better to hot pack your cherry tomatoes.  

Here’s the basic process. 

  • Wash tomatoes and add to pan with just a little bit of water – about 1/4 cup water to 1 cup cherry tomatoes. There is no need to cut tomatoes. 
  • Bring the tomatoes to a boil over medium high heat and boil them for 5 minutes. 
  • Remove the tomatoes from the heat, and using a canning funnel (Amazon), spoon the tomatoes and the juice into the jars, leaving ½” headspace 

Follow the remainder of the instructions that you’d use when raw pack canning cherry tomatoes such as adding salt, and either lemon juice or citric acid to the jars. You’ll also debubble, adjust the headspace, wipe the rims, and add lids and rings before placing the jars into the canner.  

Process the hot packed cherry tomatoes following the same instructions for raw packed cherry tomatoes. 

What to Expect When Canning Cherry Tomatoes 

When I first removed the jars from the canner, the cherry tomatoes all floated near the top of the jar.
As the jars cooled, the cherry tomatoes became more evenly distributed throughout the jar.

When you remove the tomatoes from the canner, you’ll notice that the tomatoes float near the top of the jar. This is nothing to be alarmed about. As the jars cool, the tomatoes will end up dropping down, until they are evenly distributed in the jar.  

Canned Tomatoes Taste and Texture

Before I canned cherry tomatoes for the first time, I read a ton of articles about canning cherry tomatoes. All of them gave the impression that especially when raw pack canning cherry tomatoes, they’d be very similar to fresh cherry tomatoes. People raved about how you can use them in salads just like you do with fresh cherry tomatoes.  

My friend, that simply is not true! Canned cherry tomatoes are just like any other type of canned tomatoes in terms of texture. So, unless you like using canned tomatoes in a salad, you’ll be disappointed if you plan to use your canned cherry tomatoes in a salad. 

Having said that, the cherry tomatoes I’ve canned are delicious and work great in any recipe where you’d typically use canned tomatoes.  

How to Use Canned Cherry Tomatoes

Here are a few ways to use canned cherry tomatoes: 

  • Soups and stews 
  • Bruschetta 
  • Spaghetti and pizza sauce 
  • Salsa 
  • As a taco or nacho topping 
1 pint of canned cherry tomatoes
1 pint of cherry tomatoes that I blended, together with the juice, to use in chili.

Most recently I opened up a pint of cherry tomatoes and pureed them, and then added them to chili. Delicious! 

Quick Pickled Cherry Tomatoes 

I mentioned above that canned cherry tomatoes turn out soft and, well. . .cooked. If you want to maintain some crispness, quick pickling cherry tomatoes is a better option compared to canning cherry tomatoes. They won’t be as “crisp” as fresh cherry tomatoes, but they definitely work well in a salad or on a sandwich or wrap. 

Here’s a basic quick pickled cherry tomato recipe.  

Prepare the Tomatoes and Garlic 

First, start off by preparing the tomatoes, by using a toothpick to poke a hole through the tomatoes. I like to poke them through the stem end, all the way through the tomato. This way I end up with just two holes in each tomato. The holes allow the brine to penetrate the tomatoes.  

Also, peel garlic cloves. I typically put one garlic clove in each pint, but you can add more or leave them out if you don’t like garlic.  

Create a Brine 

Next, create a brine.  

For two pints, I use the following ingredients: 

  • 1 1/3 cups white vinegar (5% acidity) 
  • 1 cup water  
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar 
  • 2 tablespoon kosher salt 

Bring the above ingredients to a boil, and simmer until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.  

Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. 

Fill the Jars 

While the brine is cooling, fill each pint-sized jar with the following: 

  • About 8 ounces of cherry tomatoes. 
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved 
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns 
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional) 

After the brine has cooled, pour it over the cherry tomatoes, making sure that the tomatoes are completely covered with the brine.  

Add airtight lids. You can use regular canning lids, but for quick pickles, I prefer to use these plastic lids that you can get here on Amazon, or here on Walmart.  

The downside to quick pickled cherry tomatoes compared to canned cherry tomatoes is that they are not shelf stable. You must store them in the fridge, where they’ll last for about 2 months. For best results, wait at least a couple of days before eating them, so that the flavors of the brine and other ingredients can penetrate the tomatoes.  

Deciding What Cherry Tomato Canning Method to Use

I hope that you enjoyed this article on canning cherry tomatoes. If you’re wondering which method is best for you, here’s a brief recap of the pros and cons of each method.

Pros and Cons of Raw Pack Canning Cherry Tomatoes

The biggest advantage to raw pack canning cherry tomatoes is that it’s super easy, since you don’t need to do any real prep work such as cooking before canning the tomatoes.

The biggest con is that you can’t fit very many tomatoes into a pint jar. If you have a lot of tomatoes to can and either don’t have a lot of jars or a lot of space to store the jars, then it’s best to choose something other than the raw pack method.

Pros and Cons of Hot Pack Canning Cherry Tomatoes

The pros and cons of hot pack canning cherry tomatoes are just the opposite as the raw pack method. With hot pack canning, you have to do the prep work of cooking the tomatoes ahead of time. This means dirtying up a pan, and adding some time onto the time it takes to can the tomatoes.

But since you can fit more tomatoes into the jar, this is the preferred method if you need to can a lot of tomatoes.

The biggest con to both the raw pack and hot pack method of canning cherry tomatoes is that the tomatoes become very soft during processing. This is no problem if you plan to use the tomatoes in something you cook, but not as good for fresh eating such as in a salad.

Pros and Cons of Quick Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

There are a couple of pros to quick pickled cherry peppers. The first is that similar to the raw pack method, they are super easy to make. Another pro is that they have a fresher taste and texture compared to canned cherry tomatoes. They aren’t as fresh as. . . fresh tomatoes, but fresh tasting enough that you can use them in place of fresh tomatoes in a salad.

The biggest cons to quick pickled cherry tomatoes is that you must refrigerate them. They are definitely not shelf stable! Also, they only last about 2 months in the fridge, compared to a year or longer with canned tomatoes.

As you can see, depending on the amount of cherry tomatoes you have, the amount of jars and storage space, whether or not you want the tomatoes to be shelf stable, and the length of time you want to store the tomatoes, you may want to use a variety of the methods shared in this article.

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To learn more about preserving tomatoes, check out this helpful article from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

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