At the point when you have (almost) eaten your fill of fresh produce, but still see tomatoes coming off the vine or onto the tables of your local farm stand, it’s probably time to consider putting some up for the cold season. There are no shortage of articles, books, and personal advice on how best to put food by, and I am nary an expert. Rather, I am a mother and a home cook who prefers to use seasonal ingredients year-round. In summer it’s easy to eat seasonally—corn on the cob is a meal in its own right! But when we are deep into February and I have exhausted every potato recipe I know, it pays to have cans of bright red tomatoes tucked away for just such an occasion. If it feels too cumbersome to can tomatoes in the heat of summer, remember: come winter, you will thank you.
If by chance you live in a tiny space with a small, less-than-perfect canning setup, you are not alone. Preserving food is still an option! Below are four tips that make canning day simpler, smoother, and all together less hectic in my home, which boasts a very small kitchen.
1. Think the whole day through.
This bit of advice is applicable to any canning day in any sized space, but in my experience, frustration builds quickly in a tiny kitchen when things start to go awry. And, if you’re like me, things will go awry. Planning the day, step-by-step, will help to mitigate some of the potential issues. Consider where you’ll place the bowls on the counter or table. To that end, how many bowls do you need? On which burners will you place your pots? Etc.
2. Have everything clean and set out before you get started.
If you have dishes in your sink, wash, dry and put them away! If you can manage it the night before, that’s even better. When it comes time to process, having a tidy space will make a significant difference in avoiding frustration, because you won’t be knocking into errant bowls and coffee mugs.
3. Enlist someone to help.
Having shouldered many a canning day alone, I am here to say that yes, it is doable, but no, it is not preferable. Having four hands instead of two (one person to core and slice tomatoes, and one person to prepare the jars and lids, for example) is very helpful in a small space. Avoid too many cooks in the kitchen, though! You’re dealing with hot, bubbling jars of food, after all.
4. Start small(ish).
Every year until this one, I failed to heed my own advice. When bounty is rolling in, it’s hard to show restraint on the first canning day. Why can five pounds when you could can thirty? I get it. However, in a small kitchen, easing in on the first batch will help you knock out future batches with greater ease and confidence.
Samantha Spigos is a mother and an aspiring children’s book author from Ohio who loves to knit, cook, and travel. She’s also a contributor to Taproot Magazine and has raised more than 100 dairy goats. Now she is actively seeking land on which to raise animals and babies with her husband.