Friday, July 13, 2012

Canning in the heat

With the horrific heat that's been blanketing so much of the U.S. in the last couple weeks, a reader had a question I thought was worth highlighting. She writes:

We live in Oklahoma. Canning in the extreme heat of the last couple of years has me on the edge of questioning the entire process. We had WEEKS of 100+ temps last year with extended stretches of ~115 heat indices. This year's actual temps have hovered 98-105, but so far have been accompanied by low humidity. Traditionally, our hottest weeks are still ahead.

I've done a lot of canning in the very late night or early hours to escape the worst of the heat, but until I can figure out how to get the garden to produce in the fall or winter, :) I'm stuck canning in the heat.

We've been working on some land for two years - built a barn (with "house" capabilities), drilled a well, put in a nice garden, fencing, etc. and we're preparing a spot to build our future home. Before we settle in on a plan, I want to explore all the possibilities for a different arrangement for canning. Hubby works in the heat all day and I'd like for him to have a cool(er) place to rest when he comes in.

Options to date:

1) Outside "kitchen" -- not one of those ostentatious dream kitchens I've seen outside some huge homes, but basically just a stove on the back porch. Am I asking for trouble, with wind and pests? I've heard horror stories of canning failures thought to be due to the air movement outside.

2) Put a stove in a room of the barn (no barn animals yet). Room has concrete floor, water and propane.

3) Continue canning inside the house. Since air conditioners have a hard time just keeping up with a 20 degree inside/outside differential (ours is set 80-82), I don't want to put more strain on the system so usually turn it off when I can. I currently use a small fan on my legs to help cut the oppressive heat.

Do you or any of your readers have any suggestions? I need help here. Thank you.

My thoughts are as follows:

1. A protected outdoor site (out of the wind) would work, but what's more important is the heat source. Moving a stove outdoors should work fine.

2. Ditto moving a stove to the barn. In fact, this is probably a better idea than canning outdoors.

3. Nah, avoid canning in the house if the temperatures are this extreme. Options 1 and 2 are why housewives used to have summer kitchens, because cooking on a wood cookstove in high temperatures was insane.

Readers, other suggestions?


  1. I used to live in Oklahoma years ago. I think the outside kitchen is the best idea as long as it is still under shade. Perhaps a screen enclosed patio type structure to also keep out insects. Last thing you want are wasps and bees when you're canning jelly. I wouldn't vote for the barn as you are still going to have the heat in the enclosed space without the benefit of A/C. Under a shaded screen patio the breeze can get to you.

  2. We moved into a new to us house last fall. It came with a flat-top electric stove. Since switching it to a gas stove is not an option, and canning on the flat top stove takes forever and can also break the top, we came up with another solution. We purchased a camping stove with 3 burners (so you can set the canning right in the middle) and one of those camping kitchen table set ups. I will be doing my canning in the garage this year. I have windows/doors I can open for ventilation, yet it will keep me out of the elements.

    I think the original poster has several good ideas, and it would be a matter of choice of which is best for her.

    1. We did the same thing for the same reason! We heat with oil and/or wood, and our kitchen range is the glass top variety. We bought a three burner HEAVY DUTY cast iron propane stove from Costco a few summers ago (can't remember the brand). We have to can in our arctic entry which has windows we can open or close. My mom used to have a canning kitchen that could be shut off from the main kitchen, and it was a dream. If you can afford another kitchen sink and a stove and some counterspace on the back off your regular kitchen -and put windows in for cross ventilation, that would be great. I would willingly sacrifice one nice, large kitchen for two to serve double duty. But if you can't afford a second kitchen, maybe make a "mud room" or back laundry porch work for canning.

  3. My neighbor uses his garage and the burner for his deep fryer. It works great and if it gets too windy he just shuts the door some.
    I try to can in the evening and always have a fan running on me, but not where it hits the canner. I also learned to oven can tomatoes and it is much cooler and quicker, although not approved by your extension agents. ;)

    1. Nor by me. Sorry, but I do NOT recommend oven-canning anything, ever. Please be safe while canning!

      - Patrice

  4. Build a basement in your future home it will stay much cooler. With proper ventilation you can use it as a root cellar and avoid canning everything.

  5. My husband's grandma raised 5 children on the farm. When the kids got older, they added on a trailer to the old farmhouse for extra bedrooms, a bathroom, living room, and a "canning kitchen" as a bonus! It wasn't the most beautiful looking house/trailer but it was functional. She said it was the best thing to be able to can in one place: the mess, heat, and counter space were wonderful. Maybe a canning kitchen in the basement? Or buy a used trailer and put it behind the barn? If you aren't concerned with your farm making the magazine covers, used trailers are cheap.

  6. As a side note, by "trailer" I mean a mobile home.

  7. I use the side burner on our propane grill for canning in the heat.

  8. We have in the past canned in the house with fans also. This year i'll can outside with a turkey frierand camp stove going. I've also been known to freeze fruit and vegies then can in the winter when we want the heat. It won't work for all produce but it's great for some items & is a nice way to spread the work out a bit

  9. My grandparents turned their back porch into a kitchen. It was "boxed in"-the back door became the door from the kitchen to the house, and the ends of the porch each had a door. In winter, the door to the house was shut, and both end doors opened(and old salvaged furnace squirrel-cage blowers at each door). It was still hot, but it didn't heat the house up. In the winter, the reverse took place-end doors shut, door to house opened, and a small fan to push the heat in. Never miss a chance to salvage the blower off an old furnace. Most still have plenty of life in them,and have a zillion uses.

  10. In the summer I can in the evening. It helps to have a HEAVY duty exhaust hood above the range. Don't go skimpy on this when you build. And don't put a microwave oven above the range if you do a lot of canning. I can all of my dried beans in the winter/spring and save only what's necessary for summer garden canning. Sterilize the jars in the dishwasher .. this will save one source of heat escaping into the kitchen.

  11. We have a gas grill that also had a stove burner on one side. You might look into getting one of those or one of those small propane stoves for outside.

  12. One thing that always gets canned outside: Horseradish!

    I like the idea of doing things in the basement. It is 20 degrees cooler in our basement in the hot summer.

  13. My neighbor has a basement canning kitchen, and I'll admit...I covet.

    We have a covered deck right outside my kitchen. Last year, the decking needed replaicing, so we ran a propane line under the deck so we have a permant propane source for our grill and my 3 burner camp stove. (This one:

    We also ran water so I have a utility sink. I cobbled together several countertops (one a tool bench, and a couple stainless steel from a restaurant that went out of business.)

    I'll admit...out "beautiful" deck is much more utilitarian looking, but I LOVE it. I put up about 1000 jars of food there last year, in my 2 jumbo All American canners. I also keep my dehydrators out there. It doesn't heat the house, AND I can still watch the canners from my kitchen.

    That would be my concern about putting the canner in the barn. Would you feel like you needed to run out there all the time and check it?

    As for wind...that can be a problem. The side of our house does serve as a wind break, but when it is really blowing, my flame can go out. I have to watch it. We are considering building a windbreak panel around the campstove. (Sure to look really classy.)

    This year, I actually bought a 2nd camp stove. We use the outdoor kitchen THAT much.

  14. Unless you are prepared to maybe see your barn burn down, I wouldn't have an open flame in a barn - or ANY source of extreme heat near one. People have been shot for bringing lighted cigarettes into barns - much less a stove.
    Not to mention basic sanitation. Nasty germs are shed in animal manure. Barns are for raising food - not for processing it.

    Here's my advice:
    Put your swim suit on & fill up a kiddie pool. Keep the garden hose handy.
    Set up a LP camp stove with a wind guard under a tree or set up a tarp for shade
    Make a table from long boards across 2 saw horses.
    Get your canning equipment together with kettles, dishpans,towels, soap etc. and plan on keeping it in a plastic tub outdoors until the heat quits.No sense dragging that stuff back in the house every night.

    Work outdoors on the saw horse table & cool off in the kiddie pool while you wait on the canner loads.

    When you all done for the day - scrape the mess into a bucket & feed it to the pigs or chickens & then hose the whole mess off. Much easier than cleaning up the kitchen!
    In the morning - repeat.
    It's a perfect Red Neck Summer Kitchen :-)
    Best of luck!

  15. I held off canning peaches until this week for the very same reason!! Our temps have been over 100 degrees going on 3 weeks but we had a bit of a break this week. Out door canning is out of the question in our area in the summer. With temps that high and warnings for heat related illness it just can't be done. Thanks for this post, hope to get some ideas for the rest of the summer!!!!

  16. We picked up a heavy duty camping stove (similar to this one: that stands on legs (raising the stove to your level). We use it for camping and when we have storms (use outside of course). Its a great stove to place in your vehicle when bugging out. I would pick a shaded area outside and build a removeable frame (something easy to breakdown) and add screen over the frame to make your enclosure to keep the bugs out. Get a portable table and a homemade sink with your hose and place it inside your screened area.. It's just a thought. I'm always look for transportable items just in case we have to get up and go (bug out).

  17. Although there is always the possibility of losing power, the letter writer might consider investing in a large deep freezer and waiting until cooler temperatures arrive to do the canning. It is not a perfect solution. As long as there is power, it will work.

  18. How about a two or three burner cast iron cooker that uses LP? Lehman's has the two burner type. That's the one I'm looking at buying and then I can do the canning on the patio, out of the wind.

  19. I've totally been canning outside for the last few years, even when it's not sultry outside. I have a one burner and a two burner campstove, and love, love, love them. Right now the single burner is set up outside our front door on concrete and partially protected from the wind (I try not to can in the rain) and has been busy with stock, boiling said stock for the day in my big 'ole 30-some quart pot, and so on. When we get our deck/backyard in better shape this year and the next, oh yes, we're going to have dedicated space for me and the canning.
    Oh, another reason some of my relatives back then had a summer kitchen? So they didn't accidentally burn down the house. Which they actually did once.

    Anyway, the way I work it is that I do the prep inside in the kitchen with my sink and counters and all my fun tools (I can heat up syrup or a small pot of jam without bugging the window a/c too much) and the canning of 15-90 minutes outside. Works out great, especially if a friend's over and helping me out in the kitchen, more elbow room to get stuff done.

  20. i have done outdoor canning using gas grills, open wood fire and kettles and other various ways to avoid the heat or try to get it done without heating up the whole house in the summertime...the last few years i have harvested lots of fruit and gone ahead and freeze it until cooler weather sets in and a warm kitchen is a welcome thing. also, this year i have taken up using the dehydrator for those fruits and veggies that just have to be done now...alot cooler and takes up less space and energy to do as well. i have found that it is the canning preparations that really take the time and the energy...once everything goes into the canner or water baths it is not so bad...and is time to put feet up while watching for the timers to ring finished.

  21. I know our basement is 10 or 15 degrees cooler (at least) than the rest of the house. But I don't know if there would be a place for the excess heat to escape.

  22. We have no AC. It's been 87 to 105 degrees every day for weeks and it'll be in the nineties here this weekend. It gets hot as Hades in the house in the afternoons when the light starts coming from the west, so I'm just turning on the fans, opening the windows, and canning anyway. Today it's blueberries. Tomorrow or Monday it's cherries. Next week it's yard berries. Eventually, I'll plant some trees on the west side of the house (after I get the drainage there fixed next month), but that's probably all the fix I"m going to get. At least I'm using the propane stove instead of the wood cookstove we use in Oct-April. By the time my husband comes home (6-8:30PM), I'm done and it is starting to cool off. I would can at night, except that would not thrill him...

  23. I do all my canning at night, throws off my sleeping hours, but it's just for 2 or 3 nights a week, whenever something needs canning. Last week it was 4 nights of canning corn. I try to break up the Prep-work so I'm not constantly dealing with hot water. I wash all the jars I'll need in the morning. I wash all the produce I'm using after the breakfast dishes are done. In the case of corn, I had the kids peel the corn for me after supper, then I wash them all as they peel. I cut the corn shortly before bedtime. Then by the time the kids have gone to bed at 9, all I need to do heat the jars, cold pack the corn, and can away. I can get two batches done by 2 am.

    I have helped can in several basement canning kitchens and it gets just as hot down there as it does in a normal kitchen, so I'm not convinced a basement canning kitchen is the best way to go. Besides, that heat rises and heats up the house anyway, doesn't it?

    I have two ceiling fans in my kitchen (thanks to previous owners) and those are going along with the exhaust fan, and we've also got the attic fan going, pulling in the cooler night air. It helps draw the hot kitchen air up and out of the attic instead of spreding to the rest of the house. Consider installing an attic fan? Some call it a whole-house fan.

  24. on another blog I read , the blogger has converted an old pump house to an outdoor canning kitchen. Hoping Patrice doesn't mind me posting a link. I hope the site helps you with your planning :


  25. best idea for the long haul, since the house is not build, is to go earth contact. Pay attention to wind / breeze currents etc and build with those in mind. A seprate canning kitchen is ideal...but make it earth contact.