what makes a kitchen good for canning?

chompskydAugust 5, 2013

This time of year has gotten me thinking... what aspects of kitchen design make canning or preserving easier (or more enjoyable)?

I know for me, it's lots of counter space on both sides of the sink (one side for unwashed/unprepped food, the other for prep), lots of counter space on both sides of the range (one side for prep, the other for cooling jars), and my kitchen table (so I can sit for certain stretches of prepping). Oh, and convenient pantry space for canning supplies as well as the finished product.

But, I also know that I've made what I have work, and it's in no way perfect. What works for you?

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Outside gas burners to keep the heat where it belongs!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 5:47PM
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For me it's all about the water: having a spray hose within reach of the rangetop so I can fill the canner on the range, or a pot filler directly over the range: and then for emptying the canner, being able to slide it along from range to sink to empty it.

I don't like / shouldn't be lifting full canners, can you guess?

Plenty of prep space is also really important, and yes, being able to sit down to prep is very useful. Space round the sink for the newly washed jars, without impinging on the prep space, is really useful too.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 6:18PM
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I know what I want in my new house for canning:

- A large prep space on the island (I definitely prefer doing my prep with nothing over my head -- personal preference) and a stool to sit upon.

- Direct access to the outside, where I can have an automatic electric canner or an individual stove eye and a pressure cooker. As someone else said, this will keep the heat out of the house.

- Plenty of pantry space for storage after the work is done.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 7:21PM
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For my mom, it was ventilation.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 8:00PM
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I vote ventilation, too, even if it is just plenty of windows to open with a fan.
Counter space. And, this may be the only instance where I think a double sink would be handy, with a grate to set a colander.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 8:36PM
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I sit here, in my kitchen, sipping Shiraz and breathing in the heady aroma of vinegar and spice. The quiet is occasionally punctuated by the satisfying pop of a jar sealing. 24 jars of dilly beans are resting. A gallon jar of refrigerator pickles is brining and tomorrow's after work schedule calls for zucchini relish.
I finished (still ABB) my kitchen last December and it was planned with the knowledge that I preserve food in mind. This evening I loved my nice, uninterrupted plane of work space on my island. I find a double bowl sink invaluable. If I had the real estate, I would have had a large second sink, but a second sink in my island didn't work for me for many reasons, even though GW'ers really wanted me to have one. There was enough space for my husband, my son and I to all be at task and it worked really well.
Being able to can with others in the kitchen is a definite plus, that our renovation facilitated. Previously I would say "everybody out".

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 9:56PM
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Somebody from Del Monte, or Hunts, in the kitchen, doing the canning!


    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 10:54PM
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Sophie Wheeler

2 window unit air conditioners! Or else do it outside. I have enough hot flashes without creating a steambath to aggravate them. And that's one reason I've switched to mostly freezing. A quick dip in in the boiling water to blanch takes much less time and added heat and moisture.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 11:20PM
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Where I grew up some people had canning kitchens in their basement or the back of their garage to keep it out of the main kitchen.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 11:24PM
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For me it is a large cooktop in order to have multiple pots going at the same time.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 10:48AM
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Interesting thoughts -- thanks everyone! Localeater, it's funny that you mention the extra sink. I've been debating whether or not it's worth having one. Everything's a tradeoff, I guess!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 4:30PM
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I put in two outside doors in my kitchen just so I could sit and have the air blow in one side and back out the other (not to mention the frequent trips outside to the garden on one side and fruit trees which will eventually be on the other side).

Also, I need a large prep table which comes in the form of an island. I find a large deep island is better for me than a long counter (and who likes staring at a wall while preping for hours on end). And the perfect height stool so you can sit, or half sit half stand when your back needs that stretch while working on peeling peaches or tomatoes for the 4th hour in a row.

And WAY more storage space than most other kitchens think they need but really don't. A place for every jar filled or empty, my large canners, plus all specialty pots for cooking up large batches.

You do pose an interesting question. I advised another GW poster who canned to spend a lot of time in her new kitchen before changing it because for me it did determine a lot of the layout. I do think that as canner/preservers we spend way more time in our kitchens than the average cook and while everyone loves their kitchen and wants it to be efficient it can actually save us way more time and mean a bit more if our kitchens are laid out right. I am interested in reading more answers.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 7:43PM
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Right now my canning kitchen consists of sawhorses with plywood, a few buckets, my range, and a hose fed through a window. Ventilation is a squirrel cage fan blowing out the door. It's not ideal, but it sure beats heating up the kitchen all day every day. We've been discussing losing the old kitchen in favor of an addition, and I'll likely move my canning kitchen to the block building behind the house.

I think ideally, I would want a dishwasher drawer or smaller dishwasher, with 4-5' of space to the right, then a large sink, another 2-3', then range, with 3-4' to the right of range for cooling jars. Basically an assembly line. Take out clean heated jars right to my prep space, fill, add water to jars if necessary and fill the canner. Jars go to cool out of main workspace. No turning and crossing paths to go from one workspace to another. If it was going to be my only kitchen, I'd probably keep the set up like I currently have with more room on one side of the range for cooling jars. Range on one side, 3x8 island with prep sink across from range, but I'd add a dishwasher or dish drawer in the island.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 4:10AM
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Interesting question! For me the most important answer is that said kitchen be surrounded by a huge and productive garden. Aside from that, everything is secondary.

In a fantasy-kitchen world, a second sink would be nice, as would a 5 burner range with a nice large spot for the canning kettle to sit. I also agree with the additional storage. My canning jars and supplies are all over the place, and I aspire to get control of this and have jars of all sizes, lids, etc all in one neat place.

I sit at the kitchen table for prep and that works fine. I need something engaging on the radio, like 'This American Life' or 'Selected Shorts.'

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 11:10AM
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double post, darn it!

This post was edited by karin_mt on Wed, Aug 7, 13 at 13:11

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 11:11AM
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Ahh. karin_mt brings up something I completely forgot, great speakers so I can have my music going. I also have a great portable bluetooth speaker for working in the garden.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 12:49PM
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I have yet to begin canning, we just got a garden in the starting phase this season.

Personally, I would LOVE an outdoor kitchen with an old wood stove for canning. We heat with wood so I've got plenty on hand, no lugging 100lb propane tanks to it or running electric. I'd like to keep all that heat OUTSIDE. Plus we've got a small house and the kitchen isn't really that big (I'm guessing about 9x9 wall to wall, so deduct for cabinets, range and fridge).

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 1:25PM
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Canning on a woodstove is my idea, and personal experience, of pure HELL!

I have cooked meals and baked (exclusively for awhile) on a wood-fired range and it's do-able, but not preferable.

I have heated my northern NY houses with wood my entire adult life (more than 45 years on my own), so it's not the wood-burning part that's bothering me.

(Nor the canning as I do a lot of that, as well.)

It's standing by a wood-fired stove trying to keep the pots properly up to temp in the freakin' hot summer.
And the notion that one could successfully pressure can on a wood-fired range has always been for me impractical in reality. Any time your pressure canner goes off-pressure, you have to start timing the processing over from the start. Keeping a BWB canner steadily humming along is hard enough!

A good hand cart makes moving the 100-lb cylinders dead easy.


    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 3:02PM
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I completely agree with liriodendron. I would really re-think your options. My old coil stove was iffy with how it delivered it's heat and pressure canning was a nightmare. I was having to constantly watch the pressure and adjust. My new stove is great, I can set the digital setting to 3.5 with the full burner and know it will steadily rise to 12 lbs of pressure AND STAY THERE unelss I do something stupid like adjust it.

Trust me, I am not one who usually says you must have all the bells and whistles gadgets, no central heat here still, we heat on an 1800's base burner coal stove I stoke twice a day in the winter, all winter long. But there is no way I would intentionally put a wood fire stove in for canning if there was another option.

I DO wish it wasn't so darn humid here all summer long, I would love to can outdoors though. I can barely stand to do my gardening some weeks.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 5:03PM
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OP here... I'm really enjoying reading this, thanks! I'm finding it especially interesting that there are some things people who can might want in a kitchen that are different than what is preferred by the majority (e.g., a double sink).

Our kitchen redo is still ~2 years away, so I'm still in the planning phases, but we are planning to work on our mudroom next, and I find the same thing to be true. My needs as a gardener (and animal owner, and generally muddy person) seem to require a different design (or list of priorities, anyway) than the typical mudroom you see these days. For example, I use my mudroom to overwinter plants and start seeds. All of those open cubbies that I'm sure are very useful to many people would be filthy on Day 1 at my house!

(And I've had a wood stove too -- count me in the "No way!" camp!)

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 7:52PM
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I have to say I love the idea of a dishwasher drawer for sanitizing jars. I don't have the space for it, but what a luxury that would be not to run the full size DW to heat and clean a batch of jars.

I also daydream about an actual mudroom (though that will never happen with our layout). It is a good thing we live where no eyes can see us because I have been known to make my kids strip down before entering the house from the garden so they don't track EVERY bit of dirt from my garden through the house on the way to the bath (you think your muddy, try gardening with a 3 and 4 year old).

I do use my laundry room into an overflow space for everything canning and garden. It is directly off the kitchen and because my kitchen is so tiny I don't really have much room to even cool all my jars at the height of the season, so I have planned a counter space in there made from a nice wood which I can fold laundry on, but really is for cooling jars. It is only 8' from the stove, just in another room. I also start all my seeds in there right now, but hope one day to have a greenhouse.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 10:28AM
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