Over the years we’ve done a lot of canning, and we’ve gotten more efficient at it. We know who is better at doing what (my husband peels the tomatoes, I’m faster at halving and seeding). Just like anything, you find little tricks along the way that they just don’t cover in cookbooks and users manuals. Here are 7 tips for a successful canning day that you might not think of.
Store all of your canning stuff together. Especially at the end of the season, but really all the time. The lid lifter always seems to make its way to the back of the utensil drawer no matter how frequently you use it, and the jar filler is just big enough that it always catches when you push the drawer in unless it’s laid in there just right. I store my clean utensils inside my pressure canner. It sure beats the frustration of pulling everything out of the drawer to find what you need when you just want to start canning!
Have a place for your ‘regular’ dishes. If you’re going to make a full day of canning like we tend to do, you’re going to want an out-of-the way place for your plates, cups, forks, etc that you use throughout the day. The dishwasher is going to be full of jars and you want the sink to remain clean (if it isn’t already filled to the brim with tomatoes). Anything from an ice cream bucket to a baking sheet works just fine, depending on your habits. Our laundry room/mud room is right off the kitchen, I usually stash it there. Yes, here is a photo of my dirty dishes (nothing too offensive, just some toddler dishes)…
You can never have enough ice cream buckets. They’re a great size from harvest until the last tomato or bean is canned. They’re big enough without being tough to handle. Each one holds roughly the same amount. They’re easy to clean. If you can’t get through canning everything in a day you can pop on the lid and they store easily in the fridge. Heck, if you’re short on counter space just pop on a lid and start stacking! When you’re not using them, they stack and store (relatively) neatly. And they’re cheap – for less than the cost of a large bowl, you can buy a family-sized bucket of ice cream… and you get to eat the ice cream!
Keep the heat contained, if you can. Canning time always falls during the hottest time of the year. This is where not having an open concept floor plan is beneficial! We hang a sheet or light blanket over the open doorway to the kitchen and have a window fan blowing out the hot air out.
Have a timer other than the one on your stove. There are a lot of hot pots and boiling liquids on the stove and it keeps you from having to reach over all of that to start and stop the timer. If you have a pressure canner with a rocker weight, like we do, it can be hard to hear the oven timer over it, so I can keep the portable one away from the stove where I can hear it. Plus, if you need a short break from the heat in the kitchen you can take the timer with you.
Label your jars on the lids. We typically just label with permanent marker on the lid. You can stick a cute label on the side of your jar, but it many cases they’re tough to get off. More importantly, however, if you label on the lid there’s no questioning whether a lid has been used or not! Lids can’t be reused, and a used lid looks a lot like an unused lid… that is, unless it’s labeled.
Don’t go blackberry picking in the morning and make pickles that afternoon. We learned this a few years ago. There aren’t photos, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. Scratched up arms and boiling vinegar are a painful combination.
Do you have any other helpful tips to share?