While the idea of an outdoor canning kitchen may be new to some, cooking and preserving outside of the home is an old practice, taking us back to the days of summer kitchens! Starting with the open fireplace and carrying on throughout the life of wood cook stoves, this tradition was developed from needs.
In order to keep the main dwelling cool while cooking and preserving during hot summer months, the necessary items and activities would be relocated to a small building just off the main kitchen.
Outdoor Canning Kitchens Today
Today, very few people have a second, outdoor building to preserve and cook food in! With our modern stoves, canning inside on a summer day is far more manageable than it used to be!
However, in spite of our modern conveniences, outdoor canning still has its benefits! Heat that does escape from a boiling canner evaporates into the open air. The mess that comes with preserving fruit or tomatoes remains outdoors. When your family wants something to eat, they don’t have to track through the stickiness in the kitchen (and spread it over the entire house).
Due to the cost of setting up a permanent structure, most “canning kitchens” today are temporary, located on a back deck, the garage or even a front yard!
Usually quite inexpensive, they mostly require a bit of work to set up.
Terri of Homestead Honey
Teri, an off-grid homesteader from Homestead Honey has given me permission to share a post about her outdoor kitchen! Not only does she cook food for her family there, but it also serves as a canning kitchen as well. Check it out in her blog post: Remodeling Our Outdoor Kitchen.
Janelle of Homestead in the Holler
“Last year, I did all of my canning outside on the camp stove…being outside in the shade of a tent canopy with an occasional breeze and the steam going into the air instead of heating up the kitchen is great! Rinsing everything off with the hose before bringing it inside for a proper scrubbing makes clean up easier as well. I highly recommend canning outside.”
Better Living’s Setup
I was delighted to find an outdoor covered kitchen just off the dining room of our rental home! After lugging an old table outdoors, heaping it high with canning supplies and lighting the gas stove beside the roll-away counter, I could preserve food in all seasons, in all kinds of weather.
There are many positives in having an outdoor canning kitchen! On our large deck there is space for sizeable canning parties, often a summer breeze to cool the face, a roof offering protection from the beating sun and pouring rain, a nearby hose to spray down the sticky floorboards and best of all, it leaves my home cool and clean!
4 Aspects of a Safe Outdoor Canning Kitchen
If you are considering a temporary kitchen for the summer, here are 4 basic guidelines you should follow. They will ensure that you are safe and that safe food is produced for winter eating.
Level and Even Ground
When looking for a place to put your outdoor canning kitchen, choose a place where the ground/floor is stable and level. When dealing with scalding hot foodstuff, no one wants a mishap!
A Shelter That Offers Necessary Protection
Having a setup that suits your particular climate is important and keeps us from taking shortcuts (see my pinterest board for ideas)
Whether you have beating sun or pouring rain during the summer months, a covered canning kitchen is a wonderful thing! Whether a permanent or temporary structure, ensure that you will be able to adequately see the job through to the finish. Cheryl of Pasture Deficit Disorder has it right: when processing food outside, large umbrellas are a wonderful thing!
Insects can also be an issue, particularly biting insects! If you have lots of mosquitoes or black flies, a screened enclosure would be a wise choice.
If using gas or propane stoves, wind presents a real problem. Even gentle, unchecked summer breezes will sweep the heat out and away from underneath your canner, prolonging the process and wasting energy at the same time. If you live where wind really blows, a structure with at least 2 enclosed sides is necessary.
Q: Why is it so important to have a kitchen that suits your climate?
When things go wrong, you’ll be tempted to take (unsafe) shortcuts! Rain clouds looming may be enough encouragement to cut back on canning time. Insects may drive you indoors and leave to you guessing when the water-bath actually began boiling. And wind may play with the pounds of pressure when processing meats and vegetables. A good setup and safe food go hand-in-glove!
An Appropriate Stove for Your Kitchen
If your outdoor canning kitchen is enclosed without good airflow, electric stoves and gas ranges are the safe choice.
Propane cook stoves should only be used in an open area with good ventilation. An open back deck or even a back yard is ideal. If canning in your garage, be sure to open the carport door far as it will go.
A Stove That Fits Your Canner/s
If processing food via the waterbath method, be sure to avoid portable electric burners that are not specified for home canning! To determine whether or not your portable burner is safe, read this article from the Home Food Preservation Guide.
Some types of pressure canners shouldn’t be used on glass stove tops, electric portable elements or direct flame (gas or propane). Be sure to read your owner’s manual. To preserve the quality of your canner, abide by the given recommendations!
Propane is often the first pick for temporary outdoor canning kitchens. Be sure to do your homework, making certain its safe! Sharon of Simply Canning has used and written a wonderful review on the propane-run Camp Chef stove. In her review, she covers both water bath and pressure canning!
4 Ways to Safely Cut Costs
There are several (safe) ways you can cut back on costs, particularly with temporary kitchens! Consider these four tips in your planning!
Use What You Already Have
Whether you need a roof, screened enclosure or wind break, work within your means and if possible, from what is already available!
Is there a garage or shop on your land? Turn a corner into a food processing area! Perhaps there’s an old barn or shed out back that would convert nicely into a canning kitchen? Do it! Maybe you already have a canopy party tent that could be put to use? Consider stringing a tarp for protection between trees in your yard! Make it work for your situation.
Build or Buy Counter Space
If you are handy with a hammer and saw, you can create the counter space needed. Some folks even build propane stoves into a counter (see my pinterest board for ideas), dealing with two needs at once!
However, purchasing an old, used table is often the cheapest way to go. Be sure to choose one that will hold firm under the weight of boxes, fruit and canning supplies. No wobbly legs!
A utility sink is a luxury, not a necessity. A hose with a spray nozzle will do just fine and adequately supply water-washing needs. However, because of the toxins found in a hose, you do best to bring water from the kitchen for preserving!
Research the Costs of Operating a Stove
Before purchasing a stove, take time to investigate what type affords the cheapest rates of operation in your area. Is electricity expensive? Perhaps gas affords cheaper rates and you already have a gas line? Can you access propane for cheap? Take all this into account before moving ahead.
Purchase Used or Move Your Kitchen Stove Outdoors
If possible, buy a used (fully functioning) stove. Often costs can be cut by (more than) half by doing so.
If money for a purchase is unavailable, consider moving your kitchen stove outside for the canning season. Before lugging it outdoors, make certain it is well protected from the elements and has an available power source!
Enjoy What You Have
It’s easy to be bitten by the jealousy bug, to spend time drooling over photos of outdoor kitchens our internet so readily affords!
Don’t do it.
Instead, do what is within your means and enjoy the experience of canning outdoors! Life is meant to be savored. If we spend our time wishing for something better, we miss out on what we do have before us. Let’s take hold of what we have and savor it!