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6 Tips for Canning More Efficiently

Saving Time While Canning - LivingHomegrown.com

Let’s face it. We all lead very busy lives.

Carving out time to put up a batch of tomatoes or peaches is not always easy.

And once you commit yourself to diving into a project, nothing is worse than underestimating how long it will take you.

Well, actually, there is one thing worse…

Not starting the canning project at all and letting the produce go to waste…that is worse.

And then there are the times when all your produce ripens at once and you are not even remotely ready to preserve it.

I get that one a lot.

With two properties to manage (our tiny LA homestead and the family farmstead restoration up north), two teenage boys with heavy soccer schedules and our TV show, I find myself in that last situation all the time.

So that is why, I am always looking for ways to cut corners and work more efficiently when it comes to canning.

I want to make the most of my time and I am sure you do too!

Here are some of my time-saving tips.

And if you have your own tips you’d like to share, please tell me in the comments! I’d love to hear them.

Saving Time While Canning - LivingHomegrown.com

Before I dive into my top 6 tips, let me explain a little something about the concept of “time.”

The Myth of Time Management:

I dislike the term “time management” because it is not really possible.

We all have the same 24 hours in day, right? And time moves forward in the same way for all of us.

So, really – we can’t “manage” it.

But what we can manage are the tasks we choose to do within that time.

If we work to make the most use of our projects, we end up with more time for other things at the end of the day.

So that is my philosophy.

It is all about “task management.”

Pick What Works For You:

My friends describe me as type AAA…or worse. Ha!

So, you may look at some of these tips and think they sound way TOO organized. And that’s totally fine.

You just need to pull out the ideas that work for YOU.

Use the tips that feel right and skip the others. (I won’t judge, I swear!)

Time Saving Tips:

1) Choose Recipes Wisely

Some recipes are simple and fast while others are more labor intensive.

That is why it is so important to choose your recipes wisely.

If you are short on time, avoid recipes with:

  • Lots of chopping (like chutneys)
  • A longer cooking time (like marmalades)
  • Longer processing times (larger jars)

Read through the entire recipe before diving in to see if there are any steps that sound time-consuming.

If you pick a recipe that fits the time frame you have, you will be a much happier canner.

2) Avoid Context Switching

Context Switching is a computer programmer term that means switching between tasks. It is also a term used in business productivity.

I mentioned context switching before in my post Streamline Your Canning.

Basically, context switching is something that happens when we multi-task and it is not a good thing.

Every time we switch between tasks, our brain has to reacquaint itself with the task at hand and it can eat up to 20% of our time with each switch.

This greatly slows down our productivity.

You have probably experienced this when you are making a recipe and you have to stop to go get something like a measuring cup. You track down the cup, come back to your recipe and you say to yourself, “Okay…now where was I??”

That is context switching and you are wasting time.

You lose not only the time in searching down the cup, but in the 20% loss of context switching time to reacquaint yourself with where you left off.

Avoid this by gathering all your tools and ingredients BEFORE you start the recipe.

You will reduce your context switching and save time.

Time Saving Canning Tips - LivingHomegrown.com

3) Cook Like a TV Chef

Ever noticed how a TV chef has all the ingredients chopped, measured and at the ready when on TV? They don’t just do that for television. Restaurant chefs do the same thing because it is more efficient.

In cooking school, it is called mise en place, which is French for “everything in place.”

Mise en place is about getting organized BEFORE you start the recipe.

Doing this will eliminate…you guessed it…context switching.

But it also eliminates discovering halfway through a recipe that you are missing something important…like pectin or a special spice. (We’ve all done that at least once…)

So before you start heating up that water bath, you need to:

  • Gather all your tools and jars
  • Gather all your ingredients
  • Chop, peel or prep any ingredients
  • Measure (or at least have everything ready to measure) all ingredients

4) Adjust Your Workflow

But mise en place goes beyond just having everything at the ready.

You also should layout your ingredients in the order you need them. Look at your workflow.

Now, I don’t mean you have to make the cooking area look like you are staging a surgery.

But I do mean that you need to go through each step of the recipe while looking at your prep area to be sure you have things laid out in the basic order.

This is the opposite of what most people do and it is a key part of mise en place.

Watch any efficient restaurant kitchen during dinner prep and you will see that most ingredients and tools are at the ready AND in the order they need them.

So if you are going to need 2 mixing bowls halfway through your recipe, don’t set them across the room. Place them on your counter next to the food that will go into them.

5) Remove Unnecessary Items

Part of staging your cooking area is removing the things you don’t need.

It’s a pretty simple step.

A cluttered area clutters up your thinking and that means you might miss a key ingredient mixed into the clutter.

You are creating something awesome here! Let your focus be on that creative process.

So clear the clutter off your cooking area before you start cooking and take away the clutter as you work.

That bowl of peach skins? Set it aside when you are done with it.

Those pits? Clear them off.

Keep only the things you need.

Saving Time While Canning - LivingHomegrown.com

6) Break Recipes into Sessions

You can’t do this with all recipes, but sometimes a recipe can be broken up into stages. And you can do those stages at different times or even on different days.

This helps a lot when you are crunched for time.

A perfect example is a fruit jam recipe. It is perfectly okay to chop and measure your fruit and then either refrigerate it or freeze it to make the jam at a later date.

The freezing process will break down the cells of the fruit and make it mushy. But that is okay with jam! And it lets you do the recipe in two parts.

If you are making jelly, you can freeze the juice to be made later.

Just be sure to measure the fruit and freeze in the exact amount you will need for the recipe. Then you can pull it out and start where you left off when you are ready.

Related Links:

Podcast #10

How to Streamline Your Canning

5 Essential Steps Before Canning

Context Switching vs. Multitasking

Mise en place

If you want to go further…

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up*: If you are wanting to rid your entire home (and your brain) of clutter, this is the book to help you do it. It really is transforming. I am still working through my entire home with this method and am finding it to be an incredible journey. 

Have Any Other Tips to Share?

Tell me in the comments!

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.

7 Comments:

  • Sara says:

    If you do have a long cook time recipe, try paring it with a short cook recipe. I have a long cook peach bbq sauce recipe that’s on our must do list every year. (I love it because we don’t have to peel the peaches—talk about time saving). While it cooks, we usually do a quick batch of jam, by the time the jam is out of the canner, the bbq sauce is ready to go in. I usually can with a friend and she’ll prep one one while I prep the other, then who ever has the shorter recipe jumps in on the other while the shorter one heats.

  • Brilliant! These are all great ideas when you have little people “helping” you in the kitchen as well.

  • Sara says:

    It all makes so much sense…. I would only add I think it is important to remember to really focus on the task at hand, enjoy the process, and not be distracted, even mentally if you can avoid it. It is so easy to make mistakes or forget steps if you have distractions and are thinking of other pressures in your life at that moment in time.

  • Debbie says:

    I have a question. I made a batch of tomato sauce in qt. jars. My husband wanted to help by doing the water bath boiling. He has a pressure canner but just used the bottom. I went out while he was doing this and looked an the water level had fallen belowthe lids. He said it was OK. It’s my sauce ruined? It’s been about a week, should I or can I reprocess

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