Small Scale Canning

Have you ever prepared jam, chutney, or a relish and the cooked-down yield is only going to be a few half pints or so? Next time, try small scale canning with a smaller pot.

I call this process small scale canning because everything about this type of canning is on a smaller scale.  I got the idea from my husband who said his grandmother, Mamsey, never let any food go to waste.  Back when Mamsey was tending her homestead, she would get the canner out and process one or two jars of something rather than waste it. Mamsy cooked on a wood-fired iron stove in a home with no running water, yet despite the heat of that stove in summer, Mamsey canned all of the family’s food in that kitchen. Mamsey was a smart and frugal country woman who knew what going hungry was all about and she wanted none of that for her family. Mamsey would can just a few jars of hand picked berries when she had them, or she’d mix together a small batch of relish with corn, peppers, and cucumber most any day there was extra produce. A few extra cans processed in between the high yield canning days gave Mamsey and her family a nice variety and extra food for those cold, winter months.

A few years ago, I realized that you don’t need to use the big canning kettle if you’ve only got a few pints or half-pints of some fruits or acidic foods to process. Canning with smaller jars means that you have the option of scaling down with a smaller pot that uses less water and less heat. This idea sounded logical to me, so I gave it a try. That’s when I became convinced that small scale canning works well with small batches of acidic foods.


The below photo shows my pasta pot in the process of canning 2 half-pints of an onion relish for 10 minutes. The lid is on and the water is boiling away.


While canning on a small scale using a smaller pot, the water must still reach the boiling point. Also, the processing time must remain the same. And the small scale canning only applies to boiling water bath canning, not pressure canning.

Similar to regular water-bath canning, the boiling water must cover the tops of the canning lids. And the glass jars should not be placed directly on the base of the smaller pot, but on a wire rack or metal disk. I’ve used both but like the metal disk better because it is more stable.

The metal disk at the bottom of the pot is needed so that the jars are not sitting directly on the base of the canning pot. There are holes in the disk and a 1/4-inch raised rim around the disk, perfect for canning in a small pot. The size of this metal disk is about 2-inches less in diameter than the pot I use for small scale canning.


The first time I did this, I loved everything about small scale canning. The entire process is faster because less water is required to reach the boiling stage.

Small scale canning opened up a whole new world of canning for me. With small scale canning, I could make small batches of foods. I could also experiment or sample a number of recipes, including original recipes, and not commit to large quantities of vegetables. And I could also make small batches of acidic vinegars or dressings, then can them for winter use.

Try canning on a small batch with a smaller pot and see if you are also convinced that this method is fantastic for little batches of acidic foods!

29 thoughts on “Small Scale Canning

  1. I love the name Mamsey. That’s one I haven’t heard.
    What a woman.
    I think small scale canning would definitely be less intimidating if you are just starting.
    In our area in southern Indiana, it’s cucumber everyone seems to be having in abudance.

    • Mamsey was the name the grandchildren gave her. I sure wish I could have met her. I beg for stories about her homestead and her life all the time. I know that if I had known her, I sure would have loved her.

      I have enough cucs to make more pickles again. Yes, having a regular sized pot on the stove top would definately be less scarey than the big kettle, I’m sure.

    • Yay! A ‘convert’!! :-)

      I’ve been canning small batches of Klaussen-style dill pickles this afternoon. Next up is some more onion relish (sounds so gross, but it is sweet and very delicious!). Stay tuned and I will post the recipes in case you want to try some in your kitchen.

  2. My wife and I were just talking about canning a few cucs and peppers, trying to decide if we should wait until there were a few more or not. Small scale canning is right up our alley! Thanks for this post.

    • Good for you….logical concept, isn’t it, Mike? Hope you show all of your readers what you’re canning — like that beautiful kimchee. Always interested in a new recipe or a new twist on what we are eating.

    • In a family with 10 people, there wouldn’t be much of a point to canning pints either! Glad to hear it’s a family event in your home. While having some family fun you are also teaching the next generation many important values (not to mention the importance of quality foods).

      Thanks for stopping by….

  3. This is a topic I’ve been looking into lately. Small scale canning sounds great for just my husband and I. Smaller batches and greater variety. Perfect. Thank you for posting on this topic.

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  6. Great information –

    Will definitly be helpful.

    How about a guest article at my site on Introduction to Canning????

    Thanks – Rourke

  7. I moved out here to a tiny Bulgarian village 18 months ago & this is how I do my canning or Borcan ing I grow numerous fruits & different veggies at the moment I am preserving Garlic which is how I found you but in my cupboard I have pickled Peppers & Gurkins as well as many jars of Plums Apples Pears Peaches & Cherries & lots of Plum jams. I love doing this but just do 4 6 jars at a time sometimes 1 or 2 jars if thats all I have!

    • Johanna — Thanks so much for commenting on my blog after your ‘visit’ here. I have enjoyed reading some of your posts at your blog but wasn’t able to leave a comment (Blogger does that to me often). I admire your gardens, dogs, and the general countryside in your Bulgarian countryside — it is so lovely and quaint. Oh, and I’m in love with the stone textured look of the fences!!

      Glad to see you are preserving some of your produce — it really is such fun to do, isn’t it?

  8. I’m fairly new to canning, and have a question on small batch canning… So can any acidic canning recipe be made into a small-batch recipe?

    • Hi Amy…..If you scale down a recipe, just be sure that you work with the same proportions. The water-bath canning process is a safe method for large or small scale canning, but you must make sure that your veggies have a good acidic content to prevent food spoilage. If a recipe says the yield is for 6 pints and you only want to make 3 pints, proportion your recipe in half. Hope this helps!

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  10. Just a suggestion for something to put at the bottom of the boiling water bath, if you don’t have a rack that fits. Just use a couple of extra jar rings, people usually have spares in their canning supplies!

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  12. I have about 8 hot pepper plants. I love the idr=ea of small batch canning. I’ve never done it before, so,…. where do I start? Thanks so much! Jeff C.

  13. I’ve been searching the net for great canning ideas: and this method wins! Such a simple solution to the new canners world of questions, especially around how to “test run” with new recipes, and how to use those leftovers! Its hard economic times these days, and I found Woodridge on top of the game!

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  15. I only have limited time on the computer, does anyone have a recipe for a small batch of bread and butter pickles. I want to pressure can them, but only get a few (5 or 6) at a time. If there is a recipe book out there with everyday type of canning ideas I’d love to get the name of it. All my best.

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  17. Do you know of any websites that automatically scale down the recipes for you? I anticipate canning small batches of peppers from my garden and would like an easy way to scale down the recipes from canning sites.

  18. Where do you find the metal disk to use for small scale caning? Is there any concern for the jars to tip over and break?

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