Designing a Home Canning Kitchen

lamb_abbey_orchards(5A / Midcoast Maine)January 3, 2010

I need some advice.

I'm going to be building a new home next year, which will be a relatively small cottage in the country (1,396 sq ft) built on the edge of an heirloom fruit orchard and large organic garden. The cottage is currently still in the design phase, but nearly complete.

I'm going to be doing a lot of canning and preserving, but know of the headaches and inconveniences of doing a lot of canning in your own kitchen during the hottest months of the year. I want to avoid these inconveniences by adding a small separate "summer canning kitchen" that is close to the main kitchen, but still completely separate from it, allowing me to keep the associated steam and heat and chaos confined to its own space.

I've got a couple of challenges, the primary one being available space. I'm intentionally building a small house because I've spent enough years in a home heating and cleaning a lot of house that just wasn't being used. So I hired an architect who has done a great job keeping holding the reigns and making sure I'm only building as much house as I truly need. The result of this is that I've got a room measuring only 7' x 8' in which to create this seasonal canning kitchen. Fortunately, it's only 5 feet and two doors away from the main kitchen in the house.

I'd really value some input from the canning experts out there in taking this 7' x 8' room and maximizing the capabilities of this new space. I'm new to larger-scale canning and therefore don't know how best to design this space and what exactly I'm going to need.

Foremost, I will be making sure that this space is as well-ventilated as possible, both with a ventilation fan as well as a 12" x 72" dormer window above the workspace that can be opened as needed.

The basic components I believe I'm going to need for this canning kitchen are:

1) A couple of high-output burners that can be used indoors.

2) A utility sink.

3) A prep area (with butcher block)

4) A full counter work space for canning and the subsequent cooling, labeling and packing of what I've canned.

5) As much storage as I can allocate for canning supplies, both in the way of counter space and cupboard space.

6) Waste containers for hauling off organic material to the compost area.

Beyond these, I'm at a loss.

I'd really appreciate some expert advice in how to design and equip this space. One advantage that I've got is that a full kitchen will indeed just be 5 feet away, so I'll be able to use that space as well for things that aren't going to fill the house with heat and steam (dishwasher, refrigerator, extra sink and counter top space, etc.)

I'm envisioning two 8' long counters (24" deep) with a 36" wide aisle between them. A utility sink will be part of one counter, or possible at the opposite end of the room between the counters. I'll also have two high-output burners ( this model specifically ) for accommodating both a 40 quart stock pot and a 40 quart pressure cooker/canner.

Here's where I hit the wall though and need your advice.

Would any of you experts be kind enough to offer me some advice as to how YOU would set up a seasonal canning kitchen given the space constraints I've got to work with?

By the way, here's a part of the floorplan that will give you an overview of the main kitchen and where it will sit relative to the canning kitchen:

Thanks in advance for your input!


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jonas302(central mn 4)

I like your ideas and that is going to be a really nice house


Window air conditioner or one though the wall if there isn't central as

lots of light and outlets

heat resistant countertops

waterproof walls and a floor drain-plastic sheeting or tile

every storage trick you can fit in there

provisions for tv or radio if you like that

Have fun we are going to want to hear about all your canning next year

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 7:01PM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

Couple of questions...
Will you be canning alone or someone else helping?
If you're alone, your layout sounds like it would work. A 36" aisle won't be enough if there's more than one person in there.
If more than one, I'd go "L" shaped with the counter tops.
Think through the process and arrange things accordingly.
For me, Prep is first, so dishwasher with counter space above it and to the left. Then the sink, more counter space for filling jars, stove/burners, then cooling space.

Hopefully you'll have more than just the two burners.
In addition to whatever you're "cooking" and the canner, you need to have your lids/rings warming unless you plan to use a crockpot or other appliance for that.

Even a second small sink toward the end isn't a bad idea.
You can fill pots, etc. when the main prep sink is full of peaches or whatever!

This is fun! A canning kitchen is one of my dreams!
We'd love to see what you decide. Hopefully Kathy in Washington will chime in. She has a separate kitchen and can probably provide some good ideas about what works.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 11:43PM
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lamb_abbey_orchards(5A / Midcoast Maine)


Great suggestions, most of which I'll probably now add. I can't see ever sticking an air conditioner in a window though. Fewer things to me scream trailer park or ghetto. A portable floor model I'd certainly consider. My guess is that with a 12" x 72" transom window above the counter with the burners, and a humidity-sensing ventilation fan, I can at least help the room breathe and ventilate. Thanks!


I'm flying solo, so most of the time I'll be canning alone. But that doesn't mean I'll always be. Possibly I should consider a permanent L-shaped counter layout you suggest, just for more flexibility, but add a removable to fill that extra space. It could be wheeled into the main kitchen on the days I've got an extra person giving me a hand.

I'll probably stick to the two burners, only because I've got the main kitchen 5 feet away where I can handle some things that won't fill the whole house with steam and heat. The two burners that I will have will each be 22,000 BTUs each and I can space them far enough apart to allow for huge pots. Also, I'm thinking the dishwasher in the main kitchen for sterilization. I'm not looking to build a full second kitchen here, but rather a seasonal annex to the main one. Therefore I won't be adding a dishwasher to the canning kitchen.

Great idea about the extra sink. I'm guessing it's something I'd grow to regret NOT having, so I should probably do it upfront.

Great ideas! I really appreciate it.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 12:20AM
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david52 Zone 6

I doubt it's relevant in this case, but we use a central swamp cooler, then close all the windows in the house save one in the kitchen, so there is a significant breeze coming through, pushing out all the heat and steam.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 8:40AM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

The rolling cart might be a nice addition anyway (L-shaped counters, or not), just for moving jars, etc. from the main kitchen to the canning kitchen.

You're kind of far away or I'd come help test it out!! LOL


    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 3:56PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I liked Deanna's suggestions as soon as I read them So, if no dishwasher then you'll need to be able to transport from the DW to the summer kitchen and the cart should solve that problem.

But the crucial point is an assembly line lay out in either a straight line or a U if you have to use both sides to make all fit.

JAR PREP (SINK) -> COUNTER SPACE -> STOVE -> COUNTER SPACE If you are right handed traffic flow is from left to right.

I'd also suggest a wire wall rack hung right near the stove for hanging tools - slotted spoons, masher, jar lifter, whisk, stove lighter, pot holders, etc. Much more handy than fishing around in drawers.

An inexpensive but sealed from moisture ceiling fan could solve much of your air flow problems.

I'd also agree with Deanna about needing a 3rd burner of some type even it it is just a small electric hotplate on the other counter. I honestly can't imagine working with only 2 burners. ;)

Enjoy your project! Many of us envy you the possibilities.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 4:50PM
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I agree on the third burner too. If I have a canner on one burner and my "product" on the other, I need a place to heat my lids. A small hot plate would probably work, maybe even an electric kettle.

I want one of those tall faucets with the pull down sprayer when I get my "dream canning kitchen", so I can put something in the sink like big deep pots and just fill them up without bumping into the faucet with them, and I agree about the drain in the floor.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 4:58PM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

I like the rack idea for hanging tools.
Maybe a magnetic section as well that could "grab" knives, lifter, etc.

We're gonna NEED photos so we can at least live vicariously! LOL


    Bookmark   January 4, 2010 at 7:28PM
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Tool rack, extra burner to heat lids,tall sprayer faucet...all great suggestions. I don't know your height but as one who is vertically challenged having things at a workable height is important! The world is geared for taller people and being able to reach an item myself compared to calling hubby to get it for me would be so nice. I'm also working with a bad back so my suggestion is to customize your canning kitchen to accomodate if you have any type of limitation. Life is so much simpler that way. The kitchen sounds like a dream we all share, post lots of pics please. Jackie

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:29AM
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jude31(6 E Tn)

I've seen, in magazines, a faucet located near the stove, in your case your burners, where you can fill your pots with water while they're on the burners. That would eliminate trying to lift huge pots of water and carry them to your burners. I feel this would be a great thing to have in your kitchen whether you are canning or not.. Just a thought.


    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 7:57PM
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My friend has an extra faucet right over the stove, centered, from the wall. It will turn flat to the wall! She loves it!
June Lynn

    Bookmark   January 7, 2010 at 12:57PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I have a friend who lives out on a farm in the country with a canning kitchen, and old one. I am so jealous! I love it! It's not very fancy in terms of appliances, but a big old utility sink for washing LOTS of vegetables was one great feature I remember. It also had an old wooden farmhouse type table in the middle, albeit a small one. I would go for a round one due to my propensity to bump into things. Maybe one with fold down sides. Sometimes ya get tired and need to sit down or want to grab a cup of tea with a friend who is helping. In that canning kitchen, the pantry and root cellar were attached. It was just across the breezway from the main house. I would invest in a whole room ventilation fan, you know, one of those big fans on the roof that sucks out the air from the whole house. Anyway, good ventilation into the plan is a must, which has something to do with window plaement as well as just having a lot of them, but I don't much know about that. Frankly my dream canning kitchen would have a small herbal greenhouse attached to one side too!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 12:38PM
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brokenbar(Mexico 23 00 N, 102 00 W)

I would offer a couple of suggestions: I haunted restaurant equipment auctions for two years. I was able to get a 6 burner gas stove for 2/3 less than new (needed some cleaning...) I also purchased two, "sink and counter" units in stainless steel for really cheap (The sinks in these are extra deep too!) I put in a small, "heat on demand" water heater and the best thing I ever did was put in tile floors with a drain in the middle. I can literally "hose out" the entire kitchen when I am done. Of course, I left the auctions with stainless steel ladles, gynormous pots, BIG collanders and lots of other good stuff. I figure that I cut the price of building this canning kitchen by at least 1/2 if not more. I also put a "wanted" add for free in the Penny Saver newspaper asking for used cabinets which I got three times as many as I needed for 150.00. Husband also built a recessed pantry into the wall. I have 2 freezers and two refrigerators in my canning kitchen as well. We retired to Mexico so I got to build exactly what I wanted and no longer will "The Wily Tomato Rogue Seed" escape my cleaning efforts!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 3:02PM
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lantanascape(z6 Idaho)

I was also going to suggest a pot filler above the stove. For countertops, I'd go with something that hot pots can be set on, such as tile, granite, or stainless. Then for a prep area, I'd do butcher block and I'm thinking I'd have a hole cut in that butcher block with a tub below it so that veggie waste can be shoved right out of the way, into your compost container.

I love the idea of checking out restaurant auctions. Maybe you could find one of those big stainless restaurant sinks with a drainboard attached. That would be fabulous for washing fruits and veggies. I'd keep the area under the counters as open shelving for pots and empty jars. The magnets are also a great idea. I have a magnetic knife rack in my kitchen, and it's the best. I'd mount a second one for utensils if I had somewhere to put it.

Have fun, it will be great!

    Bookmark   January 10, 2010 at 7:25PM
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Wow, I think this topic came up a few years ago and I was in heaven just thinking about it then, LOL!! All nice ideas. I'm trying to think of the things I complain about as I try to can or put up anything. Counter space, sink space and burner space are my 3 biggest complaints in my small kitchen. I know you seem set on the 2 burner deal but I would go with at least 3. As Annie mentions, you will have your canner on one, product on another. I guess the crockpot or plate burner idea is great too:) I just love planning a dream kitchen on someone else's dime but since you asked....good luck and know we are all living vicariously through you, LOL. Lori

    Bookmark   January 15, 2010 at 12:14AM
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I've only used it one season so far, but here are a things that I really like.

I have a double bowl utility sink with a high capacity sprayer (it is attached to a hose, not normal indoor type plumbing).

The cooktop is a high capacity coil cooktop and I can have my 921 AA and my 16qt Presto going at the same time, it heats very fast. I installed in in the middle of an old desk - it is a great having it much lower than a "normal" counter height - I can easily load and unload the canner, and see inside much easier.

The other great thing is I can move around three sides of my cooktop. I have used all four burners at one time and it is so great to move around instead of reaching over.

I also use a couple of cart type things along side the desk as needed. I'd advise having some movable work areas so you can "expand" as needed and then move them out of the way once the canners are loaded and heating.

I also love having big drying racks. I use those wire shelves for closets and I can put a towel on them and turn my big kettles over for drying without having them all over the counters and in the way.

If we ever add an attached garage I'm going to expand my laundry room to have a canning/processing area in there also (for when it is too cold to use the outdoor one).

I love my summer kitchen, I knew I'd like it but it is so nice to leave the mess and come inside for a break and not have to clean up just to find a spot to fix an easy meal.

I also bought a Cadco portable range this winter. It is a 2,000 watt 220 volt unit (needs higher power than regular 110). This will handle my AA canner nicely. This is nice if you do not want a fixed cooktop, but this portable unit cost more then the cooktop did.

BTW - my kitchen is in the middle of being remodeled and the stove will be replaced with an induction cooktop -can't can on that so I needed to come up with a different solution.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 12:29PM
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lamb_abbey_orchards(5A / Midcoast Maine)

Thanks so much to everyone so far who has been kind enough to offer their input, suggestions, and (most recently) photos. Im stepping into foreign territory when it comes to a canning kitchen, so itÂs really helpful to learn from other peopleÂs experiences.

IÂm not completely done designing the kitchen, but there are a few parts of it that are now pretty much decided:

1) The room will indeed be 8Â x 7Â, comprised of a 24" wide U-shaped counter that wraps around the little kitchen on three sides, with a 3Â x 6Â aisle inside of the U.

2) Directly opposite the door, at the bottom of the U, will be a 33" wide double sink with 12" deep bowls. The sink will have a commercial faucet system with a pull-down spray head. The model of sink IÂll be going with will be this one:

3) IÂll definitely be adding a wall-mount pot filler behind the cooktop to be able to fill large pots while directly on the cooktop. The model of pot filler IÂll be going with will be this one:

4) Floor will be tile with central drain to enable the floor to be hosed down to be cleaned.

5) IÂve gotten rid of the original 2 burner idea, and have upgraded to a 5-burner cooktop which will be center along the left counter top. The cooktop will have two 9,500 BTU burners, one 14,000 BTU burner, one that adjusts from 5,000 to 1,200 BTUs, and a powerful central burner that adjusts from 18,000 to 450 BTUs. The cooktop will be this model specifically:

6) IÂll be designing the cupboard space beneath the counters to maximize their storage capacity. To do so, IÂll be adding two Hafele storage units that will take full advantage of the Âblind space in the far two corners of the room beneath the counters. IÂll be going specifically with these Hafele LeMans units:

7) The long countertop on the right side of the room will be for cooling, labeling and packing. The top shelf of the storage area beneath it will accommodate a couple wooden boxes, each the size of a case of quart canning jars, so I can easily sterilize the jars in the main kitchen and carry them to a shelf in the canning kitchen to be stored out of the way until needed.

8) I'll be adding a large butcher block to the counter space between the sink and the cooktop, and will be cutting a hole (probably 6" wide) in the counter top, right next to the butcher block, so any organic material to be composted can drop through the counter into a large composting bucket, much like this set-up:

9) The room will ventilate both via a 12" x 72" awning window above the cooktop, as well as through a powerful ventilation fan in the ceiling that has a built-in humidity censor.

This indeed will be a small canning kitchen and run the risk of feeling a bit cramped, however there will only be one person using it at a time. I think if I clean as I go, and keep everything in its proper place, out of the way, this little kitchen should be capable of great things.

IÂd love to get peopleÂs feedback on the list of choices I've listed above. If there are red flags IÂm simply not seeing at this point, itÂs best to get them pointed out now!

Thanks again for all of the great ideas and input.


    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 1:40PM
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lantanascape(z6 Idaho)

That sounds amazing, and I am quite jealous! Please post photos when it's all built so we can drool.

I don't see where you mention anything about above-counter storage, but I'm thinking that open wire racks would be useful in the cooling area. That cooktop looks fantastic, I'd be happy to have something like that in my main kitchen, much less a secondary kitchen. Very nice!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 7:51PM
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Lpinkmountain- I don't suppose your friend would let you post pictures of her canning area with pantry and root storage? I love breezeways and they're so practical. I would like to add something like that to the farmhouse we're planning to remodel and I think adding a small herbal greenhouse would be perfect :)

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 7:33PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

I decided against a pot filler when I remodeled my kitchen. I decided it wasn't worth the additional trouble and expense for a 50% advantage (that is, I still have to get the water out of the kettle). I'd rather run a hose than have a permanent installation.

Having discovered a leak inside the wall when we remodeled the bathroom, I had nightmares about the same happening with a pot filler. Unlike a regular kitchen faucet where you can get in under the sink, access with a pot filler can be a real challenge, especially in conventional kitchens with tile or stone backsplashes.

If you do install a pot filler, I'd recommend planning some kind of access hatch, perhaps on the other side of the wall, so that if there are any plumbing issues you can get in there.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 8:02PM
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Might be too late now, but I would think about a large single sink instead of a double. You can always add a washbowl to a single sink, but you can't make a double sink expand to wash large items.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 9:00AM
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I just came upon this site by accident but am SO glad I did. John, I'm curious, did you get your canning kitchen completed? I would love to see photo's.
I never learned to can - I was always part of the prep team as a child (plant, weed, weed, weed, pick, wash, snap or cut) and now regret never going beyond that. My parents had a stove in our detached garage that was used as the canning kitchen in order to keep the house cool.
Would love to see other's canning kitchen photo's also. Colleen

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 12:58PM
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A good sound system or a decent portable stereo up on a shelf out of harms way (sink, stove etc) but with a remote. Canning and cooking is made much better with good music to work to.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 3:20AM
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Hey, guys, you have great ideas. Don't forget to include caning racks. It's ideal for those jars that have just been pressure canned in order to separate them apart in storage and prevent breaking. I think you should check out this home canning article too.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 12:43AM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

If you are thinking about using a dishwasher for sterilizing jars etc. consider that some of the newer models don't heat water for their whole cycles. I have a "fancy" dishwasher in my home kitchen and I can't really use it for sterilizing. I did however purchase a 18" professional grade dishwasher for our church kitchen to sterilize our cutlery (we don't have room for a proper professional dishwasher in there). It would be super for heating and sterilizing jars in short order.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2011 at 12:43PM
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Thought I'd bump this as there are lots of great ideas here, and it was ready to fall off into the electronic wilderness.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 8:29AM
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I am hoping to see how this canning kitchen works.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 10:42AM
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