Feb 22, 2018

Creating a Canning Kitchen

Preserving Kitchen, Summer Kitchen
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Since we moved to our mountaintop homestead in the summer of 2016, we've planned to create a canning kitchen - a place set aside just for preserving our homegrown food. The original structure on our homestead, which appears to date from the 1950s or 60s, seemed the logical choice. Until recent years, people had lived in it, so while it doesn't have a toilet (they used the woods instead), it does have electricity and plumbing. It already housed the washer and dryer, the dog-washing tub, and a wonderful old sink. All it really needed was a cook stove...plus, a lot of clean up.

Why I Want a Canning Kitchen

So why, you may ask, do I want a separate area just for canning and preserving? My reasons are many:

1. It prevents the house from getting uncomfortably hot during canning season. (Our house has great passive-solar properties, so we definitely don't need to warm things up in summer!)

2. It prevents my tiny kitchen from becoming more crowded. I simply don't have room to store all my canning tools and supplies inside the house - but there's plenty of room for all that in the canning kitchen.
The original structure on our homestead...which is now a canning kitchen.
3. Did I mention I have a tiny kitchen? I can can in it, but it's definitely tricky.

4. If I have a canning kitchen, my house kitchen need not be a constant mess during canning season.

My hubby worked hard to make this preserving kitchen happen, and I am grateful!

How We Did It
I wish I'd taken a proper "before" photo. This is a shot after the building was already largely cleaned up.

The first step to preparing the canning kitchen was to get a new roof on the building, since the old metal roof was leaking like crazy when we bought the place. Then we had to remove copious amounts of junk left behind by the previous owners. Sadly, most of it went to the dump because it was just too far gone to do anyone good.

Next, there was the question of the stove. For canning, an electric coil stove is best. I'd tried canning on our house's gas stove (fueled by propane) and it took forever to get the water to a boil...plus it ate up a lot of propane, and our tank is small. Last summer, my husband set up a turkey fryer burner on the porch. That was nice in that it kept the house cool, but it was extremely difficult to get the burner low enough in temp that liquid didn't siphon out of the jars while canning. Plus, I still had to warm liquids and cook any foods inside, bring jars inside and fill them, and then walk them outside to put in the canner. A bit of a pain.

The area I chose for my canning stovetop.

My hubby got pretty annoyed at me once or twice because I refused to buy used coil top stoves we saw in thrift stores. I just figured we weren't ready for them yet...and as it turned out, I think we ended up with something better: One of my husband's co-workers had a drop-in stovetop, which he gave us for free. Free is good!

The neat vintage sink already in the building.
Now we needed to figure out where I wanted the stove and how best to make a counter for it. I chose to have the stovetop near the already-existing sink, but with a little workspace in-between. (Eventually, my hubby will probably put a pot filler, like this one, directly over the stovetop, so I don't have to lug a canner full of water around.) And it just so happened there was a really solid old door sitting around among the junk in the building. My husband thought it would make a great counter, and he was right!

Door turned counter.
He built sturdy legs for the door-countertop (using materials we had on hand), and we thought initially we'd buy some laminate to finish the top. But ultimately my husband decided to sand the door down and give it coats of protective linseed oil. The result is totally gorgeous! It will require new applications of linseed every season, but we're okay with that. Cheap and beautiful is good!
The door was originally an ugly 1970s dark brown. But once sanded...

it is lovely!
Look at that gorgeous grain!
I love the original hole for the knob. Upcycling is cool!

Eventually, I hope to have closed cupboards beneath the counter, for storing kitchen towels and such.

Where my hubby's tools sit in this photo is my vintage work table.
But otherwise, it's a job completed! I have an old, broken rake (we found about a gazillion of them on the property) to hold utensils, an old school house chalkboard (nifty, though I'm not sure what I'll do with it), and a vintage 1950s laminate kitchen table to use as a workstation. I also have my dehydrators in the building, as well as my juicer, scales, and similar kitchen tools. And have I mentioned that the view is fantastic? I can't wait for preserving season to come!

A rustic utensil holder.
What a  view!

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