The Homestead Kitchen: Tips for Creating a Practical, Rustic, Self Sufficient Kitchen

by Charlotte Walker
The Homestead Kitchen: Tips for a Self Sufficient Kitchen

The homestead kitchen is a busy place. It hums with the sounds of life and activity. You will often find baskets of freshly harvested vegetables spread across the dinner table. Crocks and pails of wild crafted food, vinegar and wine ferment on counters and in different corners of the room. As you move around the kitchen you can hear the symphony of life forming  as these concoctions gurgle, bloop and blurp happily. Herbs, garlic and onions hang from rafters to dry.  Big pots simmer on the stove and jars sit cooling on the counters letting off the occasional ping, their telltale sign of having sealed successfully. This is the heart of our homestead.

Discover what’s involved in running an efficient and organized homestead kitchen. This article shares insights into the tools used to preserve food, off grid appliances, wood stoves, cast iron cookware, pantries, sinks, cold storage and much more!

Rustic Charm & Frugality

Our homestead is comprised of a small log home, 90 acres of mostly wooded land, several fields, large vegetable gardens, a greenhouse, a pasture and a chicken coop. It’s not a large home but when you walk in, it feels very open and spacious.

Energy Efficiency

The home is heated with wood and we rely mainly on solar energy for power.  When selecting tools and appliances for the kitchen we are very mindful of  how much electricity they use, and when possible opt for manual devices. This is a fine balance. Sometimes manual tools are extremely labour intensive, tedious and  time consuming to operate.

The Kitchen Features

There isn’t a microwave or dishwasher in this house.  I have to tell you, I love doing the dishes by hand. Once my hands are are moving in that hot soapy water, I find that I relax. It provides me with an opportunity to reflect on the day or simply look out the window and enjoy a quiet and relaxing scene.

Utility Sinks and Washtubs

In addition to the kitchen sink I rely on a  big wash tub. Ours isn’t in the  kitchen but it is conveniently located.  A wash tub comes in really handy if you have a lot of apples or vegetables that need to be scrubbed before preserving, or for washing really big pots and carboys that just don’t fit in a standard sink.

Put your Fridge In the Pantry

We often get asked, “where is the fridge”? Our refrigerator is tucked away in the walk in pantry and although uncommon, I would never change this. There is something really charming about having the fridge out of sight and having it in the same room that all the other food is stored is quite convenient.

Homestead Kitchen Food Storage & Pantry

The pantry is attached to the kitchen. It’s not a big room but we maximize the space with floor to ceiling shelving. Both the deep freezer and refrigerator are stored in this room. We don’t  have a  cold cellar but I have found a way to improvise. We keep the pantry cool and dark at all times. There is a tiny window in this room covered with a heavy curtain and we control the temperature of the room by opening the window. Paired with the concrete floors this keeps the room quite cool. The carrots, beets and potatoes keep for about five months stored in this pantry.

Dry Goods Storage & Pest Control

All food is stored in either glass jars or we vacuum seal it. If it’s in packaging we organize it into plastic containers. This keeps out moisture and pests. For a while when we first moved in we have a lot of trouble with mice but we rarely catch even one,  now that we have the food all locked up. We shop in bulk whenever possible and keep a lot of food on hand. If you want to learn some interesting way to stock your pantry you might enjoy reading: Pantry Essentials: Stock a Pantry like a Pro

If you are building a house, don’t overlook the value of a good old fashioned root cellar. It is truly the best way to cold store your garden bounty. We don’t even have a basement but I wish that we did!

Cast Iron Pots & Pans

The Homestead Kitchen: Cast iron pans hung behind the wood stove

At our homestead we use cast iron and enamelled cast iron for all of our cooking. A few people have admired my cast iron collection assuming that they were just for decoration but we use them every day. There really isn’t anything that you can’t cook in a well seasoned cast iron pan. Eggs, waffles, bread: you name it and a cast iron pan can handle it.

Vintage Versus Modern Cast Iron

Before you go out and buy a collection of cast iron you should know that they are not equal in quality. The best cast iron pans are often vintage. Modern manufacturing just isn’t done with the same care. Vintage pans are lighter and have a smooth cooking surface. They are wonderful to cook with. New cast iron pans are usually heavier and have a rougher surface. I do have a set of  “modern” Lodge pans that we use every day and I am happy with them.

You can hunt for old pans at flea markets, antique stores, auctions, and in friends and families basements!  Start asking around. If you can’t find old pans, there are a small number of companies that are producing cast iron pans the old fashioned way. They are quite expensive compared to finding them used but they look wonderful and considering the pan will last forever, it’s a pretty good investment to consider. I have not tried them, but if you want to find out more here are the websites: Smithey Iron Ware & Field Company.

Cook Anything, Anywhere, With Cast Iron

Cast iron is really versatile as well, You can use it over a fire pit and on a BBQ. A cast iron pan can easily become a family heirloom lasting centuries. One thing I love about cast iron is how well they hold the heat. I can take them from oven to table providing piping hot meals. I The smaller individual pans are perfect for serving individual Shepard’s pie, stews, baked omelettes and waffles.

Cast iron is easy to care for. Simply wash with hot soapy water and a lightly abrasive cloth if necessary. Dry and rub with oil. I have seen  amazing examples of horribly rusted cast iron pans being restored and they truly look like new again. They really are economical because you will never need to replace them.

Homestead Kitchen Wood Cook Stoves

The Homestead Kitchen Wood Stoves

A wood stove or cook stove provides efficient cooking solutions in the wintertime.

We have a wood stove right in the kitchen. It really was one on the few places we could have installed it. It has a cooking surface and warming area that helps in the winter with raising bread, keeping warm water, and cooking meals. Honestly, I really wanted a true wood cook stove but we wanted the security of being able to to use the stove for heating the house should the main wood boiler stop working.

Most cook stoves are not rated for use as a primary heat source. We needed the heat more than the cooking functionality so we ended up buying a wood stove with a small cooking surface. Our stove works great, it keeps the house nice and toasty and we can boil water and cook small meals on the top. I would LOVE to be able to bake with a wood fired oven though. When we need to replace our wood stove we will replace it with an extremely practical (not built for beauty)  Amish Kitchen Queen. 

Off Grid Kitchen Stoves

The homestead Kitchen - off grid stoves

Off grid stoves

Our sad old kitchen stove is barely hanging in after many years of heavy use. We are looking for a new one, all gas with no electric. We have a large propane tank outside and it’s been really cost effective.

If you are going to be loading your stove up with a lot of weight like we do, you should avoid glass top ranges completely.  It is also best if you has a heavy duty top with grates rather than rings. A lot of canners find that the rings on their stoves eventually break down and collapse under the weight.

You want to avoid dual fuel if you are trying to reduce your energy bill or if you are living off grid. It really taxes your off grid systems. In North America there are less than a handful of models to chose from when you really narrow the list down for a durable all gas stove. We are looking at two brands: Unique Off Grid & Premier Pro. I love  Big Chill and they have an all gas option but they are rather expensive.

Kitchen Knives

The homestead kitchen - Knives

When you run a homestead and have to break down chickens, chop a mountain of veggies and other things, you need good quality sharp knives. Dull knives are far more dangerous to your precious fingers than the sharpest of knives will ever be. Every time you go to use your knives you should take a quick moment to sharpen them with your honing steel.

Good Quality, Reasonably Priced

You don’t need the ultra expensive knives and you really don’t really need to buy a full set. I own some fairly pricey knives but I honestly prefer less expensive Victorinox knives. A good Victorinox chef’s knife is around $50 and will last decades if treated properly.

Knives That You Actually Need

Note: if you butcher your own meat you will want a saw and a boning knife and butcher knife.

Cutting Board

Wooden cutting boards are a lot better for your knives that plastic and glass. They are also far safer for your fingers. Clean with hot soapy water and rub down with bees wax or a food safe oil and your cutting board will last forever.

Sharpening Tools

A honing steel:  A honing steel is a long tubular metal rod. It is an effective way to help maintain your knife’s edge between sharpening. The more often you use the steel, the longer the edge on your knives will last. The honing steel is very simple to use. Hold  your knife at a 20 degree angle and smoothly slide your knife across the steel six times on each side.

Sharpeners: There is an assortment of sharpening tools that can be a really beneficial investment.  Some require practice and skill such as Japanese water stones and others are very easy and automatic to use. Proper sharpening a few times a year will provide you with a superb sharp edge on your knives.

My husband has a set of Japanese water stones but if he were to buy something new, or replace the stones, it would be the  Edge Pro Apex Knife Sharpening System. It is a different level of quality  when compared to all other sharpening systems but is also quite costly.

I used to be very minimalist with my kitchen equipment but in the past few years as the garden gets larger it’s no coincidence that the amount and size of the equipment we use has also grown. When I put this list together I was a little shocked to see just how many things we have come to rely on.

One decision you will need to make is: Manual versus Electric.  In all honesty electric tools will nearly always be less strenuous and a lot faster to use. That said, when you are running on solar, living off grid or trying to reduce your energy costs, manual is something to consider. We use a mixture of both.

Dehydrator

I love our dehydrator but it is a bit of a problem when running on solar. We would like to make a simple non electric solar dehydrator this year. I have some great mesh drying racks that I also use, our spare bedroom often has racks of food drying when we don’t have guests around!

Large Stock Pots

If you grow a big garden, large stockpots are a must. Look for large 20qt heavy bottomed stainless steel pots, they will stand the test of time. If you have a range hood, you will want to measure to make sure that your pots will fit underneath it.

Standard Stock Pots

When you first get into canning the easiest place to start is with jams and jellies. Other than jars.lids, rings and a jar lifter, you can achieve perfect results using a standard  stock pot.  You just need a metal tray in or some dishcloths so that your jars are not touching to bottom of the pot.  We like heavy bottomed stock pots so that when you are simmering something for a long period of time you have a more regulated temperature and don’t end up burning your stock.

Pressure Canner

A must if you want to preserve low acidic items such as water packed beets, water packed carrots and meat. There are several styles. We have two of the presto Aluminium 23-Quart Pressure Canners. It”s the more affordable style of pressure canner. After years of heavy use, they are still doing the job perfectly. If you buy a Presto make sure you also order one of these with it.  You can splurge for the All American series as well. I have not used one but certainly wouldn’t complain if one arrived at my doorstep! Regardless of model,  go for the larger 23-25qt size, pressure canning takes time so the larger size will reduce the amount of time you spend in the kitchen.

Water Bath Canner

For preserving jams, jellies and pickled items the water bath canner is a kitchen staple. Preserving with a water bath is easy to learn and most canners can double as large stock pots. A water bath canner is really just a big stock pack with a wire rack in it.

Steam Canner

Steam canners are newer on the scene and I really love ours. We have the stainless steel Victorio model. It requires such a small amount of water that the canner heats up a lot faster than the water bath will. It takes the same amount of time to process jars as the water bath so you can follow the same recipe instructions. They are usually versatile in that you flip the canning rack and it then converts to a standard water bath canner.

Canning Jars, Lids & Bands

Canning jars are reusable and can last many years. We use them for storing leftovers in the fridge, for garden slug traps, for bathroom storage and of course for canning and preserving food. Canning lids are infinitely useful as well and  when I find them on clearance I buy a lot of packages. You can also find them at Amish supply stores in bulk.

Steam Juicer

I can’t exactly recall how many  jars of apple juice it was before we decided we needed to spend some money on a steam juicer, but I am so glad we got one! The old fashioned method of making juice is extremely labour intensive. It involves a lot of heavy lifting and it can be messy.  We have access to countless apples around here (free!) so making apple juice and other apple products is something we do often. The Deluxe Stainless Steel Steam Juicer by VICTORIO extracts nearly all of the juice providing  a heavy concentrate and there is no heavy lifting or mess involved.

Carboys and Bottling Equipment

Last year we discovered the joy in making small batches of wild crafted wine. Small 1 gallon jugs are so much easier to work with than the larger 5 and 6 gallon versions. Over time we have accumulated a lot of bottling equipment but we still use fairly basic supplies and they work well. You don’t need to spend a fortune to make your own wine and beer.

Juicer

We use a macerating slow juicer to extract juice from leafy things like kale. The liquid gets frozen into ice cube trays providing us with potent green power through the winter. This is also great for making tomato juice.

Food Grade Plastic Pails

I am not a big fan of plastic but these pails really come in handy as a lightweight vessel for starting your wine, for transporting a lot of veggies from the garden, for straining and pouring large batches of juice or stock and even for storing larger quantities of dried goods.

Fermenting crocks

When we ferment food we use old fashioned stoneware crocks for large batches and mason jars for smaller batches. Fermenting crocks and the weights are really useful to have. You can get a great starter set from1 gallon jugs or if you want something custom and beautiful everyone is raving about these ones on Etsy designed by Mark Campbell Ceramics.

Other Essential Homestead Kitchen Tools

We do our best to research and find small appliances and tools that will last a long time and have a good reputation for quality. We only want to have to buy it once.

Hand Cranked Coffee Grinder

We wrote an article about coffee and we really do love that morning cup a lot. There is something purposeful, zen like in pouring some beans into a hopper and cranking the grinder until you have perfect, fresh coffee grinds. You couldn’t pay me to put those gorgeous beans in some nasty old electric grinder. It’s just not the same.

Stove Top Kettle

Do they even make electric kettles anymore? I hope not because stove top kettles are far more versatile and come in such cute colours and shapes. My husband likes to turn the kettle on, flip down the whistle and ignore it. He knows the sound will send me running from wherever I  am to make tea.

French Press

French press is something every kitchen should have. It’s the lowest tech, greenest way to make your coffee. It’s charming, inexpensive and convenient and fool proof and it is the final piece in the puzzle for achieving the perfect cup of coffee.

Meat Grinder

We also have a vintage meat grinder that came from my husbands, grandmother’s old farm. We treasure it. Teenagers are very helpful to have around when you need to operate it as it expends a lot of energy and it’s a slow process. Good music and frequent changing of arms and you have yourself a great upper body work out. In all honesty rather than grinding and cleaning the grinder I lean towards finely chopping the meat whenever I can get away with it. Perhaps this is one tool where electric might be better.

Flour Mill

We bake all of our own bread and I’ve started to wonder about grinding our own wheat. I had a lot of questions so I looked to Pantry Paratus for answers.They really know their stuff when it comes to flour mills, different types of wheat, baking bread and the nutritional and health benefits behind it. They offer a lot of information, resources and videos on their blog. We are going to be buying the wonder Mill Junior Deluxe Manual Grain Mill with the drill bit adapter that will give us the best of both worlds.

Pressure Cooker

We have the instant pot pressure cooker and it’s electric but it makes baked beans in an hour, something that can take 3+ hours of simmering and monitoring on the stove. When we are out working it’s nice to walk into something hot. It also acts as a slow cooker and yoghurt maker among other things. Now ..if only we had a cow for that yoghurt.

High Power Blender

Our Vitamix gets used at least once a day. We use it for making smoothies, blending sauces, puréeing, making natural skincare products and it’s just been a work horse. We’ve had other blenders before and they all ended up in the garbage just from light ordinary household use. I daresay that it is the best blender out there and well worth the investment because it should last a lifetime.

Stand Mixer

I could live without a stand mixer and was fine without one most of my life but do do find that it is handy and versatile tool. I enjoy being able to have the mixer working on kneading the dough or mixing the cookie batter while my hands are free to do other things.  The pasta making attachment is really quite good. It saves time and is a lot easier on the wrists than rolling out pasta dough or kneading bread. I find that quickly get sore wrists, likely from my many years of working at a desk and computer. I think I will come to appreciate this tool more and more as I get older.

Outdoor Kitchen Space

Sometimes it’s just too hot in the kitchen to work. We have a makeshift outdoor canning kitchen that saves me from being in front of a hot stove all day when preserving food on hot days. It has a large table, portable propane burners, and a nearby watering station. We are thinking about screening this area in to keep the bugs out, last year they were a real bother, the previous year not at all.

Frugal and Functional Décor

I  like the ruggedness of our homestead kitchen. It needs some work but I appreciate the fact that I can accidentally put a hot lid on the counter top and it’s not big deal. Wooden counter tops make it easy to fix, just sand lightly, give it a coat of oil and wax and all is well again. I don’t want to worry about ruining my perfect counters because frankly, I will find a way to ruin them. It gets seriously crazy in the kitchen some days.

Each item that we display provides an element of old world charm while also being functional. We don’t hesitate to enjoy our vintage bowls, dishes, and glassware on a daily basis. If you are interested in some lovely ideas and inspiration for decorating your rustic homestead kitchen you might enjoy: 10 Rustic Country Kitchen Décor Ideas

A homestead kitchen is a busy place. With some careful planning and organization along with the correct tools, you can run an efficient and organized kitchen that is functional but also enjoyable to spend time in

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27 comments

Freckles April 27, 2017 - 12:37 pm

Thank you for sharing. That pantry is all kinds of awesomeness!

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Charlotte Walker April 28, 2017 - 11:31 am

Thanks 🙂

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Carla Sisneros April 28, 2017 - 1:28 am

I would love to have your input on how to improve my mini 1 acre suburban homestead. My “casa” is your “casa” If your ever in Northern California.

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Charlotte Walker April 28, 2017 - 10:59 am

Thanks Carla! Would love to see California someday. I really admire how innovative Californians have become with growing food in tough conditions.

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Kathleen May 1, 2017 - 2:57 pm

Excellent post! I really love all the room you have in your kitchen.

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Kelsey May 5, 2017 - 5:35 pm

Love this post! My husband and I will be buying acreage in upstate NY within the next year or two and can’t wait to start implementing more of this. Also, I love that you mentioned Victorinox knives – my husband sells them and I have a variety of their knives throughout my kitchen. I love every single one!

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Booth Kittson September 22, 2017 - 3:26 pm

Wow, thank you for your super detailed account of a real working kitchen.

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Carol November 10, 2017 - 8:04 pm

Great post! Really gives me inspiration.

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Charlotte Walker November 11, 2017 - 10:38 am

Thanks Carol!

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Karen DeGrace December 6, 2017 - 3:27 pm

Great Post, I have my freezer in my pantry at the moment and was toying with the idea of putting the fridge in also when we build a new one. Definitely plan to have the fridge in the pantry now. I love your kitchen!

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Charlotte Walker December 6, 2017 - 9:35 pm

Thanks Karen! I really do love having the fridge in the pantry, I am glad you have the option to try it as well. I think you’ll love it 🙂

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William Whitmer December 12, 2017 - 10:09 pm

I am starting my life over from the hustle of a flight attendant. So i am back in NC turning a small barn into my home. This spring building above ground planters. I love making something out of nothing make it work. I really enjoed this pin and am forever grateful to you.

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Charlotte Walker December 12, 2017 - 11:07 pm

Thanks so much William! I wish you much happiness on your new adventure.

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Jennifer December 20, 2017 - 5:33 pm

What brand is your current wood stove? I love the movable top plates.

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Charlotte Walker December 20, 2017 - 5:55 pm

Hi Jennifer, it’s the The Pacific Energy 2.5 Newcastle in black painted cast Iron. I do make a lot of use of those plates for keeping things warm. The cooking surface isn’t very big (only my smaller pots and pans fit). It works great, no complaints but I do wish it had a bigger cooking surface.

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Jennifer January 6, 2018 - 2:16 pm

Thank you!

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Antti December 27, 2017 - 12:50 pm

Thank you very much, great article and review. In particular, your beautiful photos have been spotted!

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Cher January 3, 2018 - 8:51 pm

Love the outdoor kitchen area. I have been trying to convince the hubby that doing all my canning outside would make his life easier. Hopefully your beautiful pictures will convince him.
If you’re ever in the mountains of Western Maryland, stop in to Clear Creek Cabin for some strawberry/rhubarb pie.

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Charlotte Walker January 3, 2018 - 9:57 pm

Thank you so much Cher, that strawberry/rhubarb pie sounds delicious 🙂

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Jennifer January 10, 2018 - 5:44 pm

Thank you for Sharing!!! I’m in the beginning stages of planning our move to a homestead in western Michigan. Thank you for sharing all of the pictures! Inspiring!!!!

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Gwen Buchanan January 19, 2018 - 12:24 pm

Wow!!! your place is wonderful, Charlotte. spacious and well-stocked with everything good. we recently moved from a small village on the Bay of Fundy to an area outside Fredericton .. much smaller than our past place but perfect for gardening and living a self sufficient life style working from home. I admire the work you have put into your new home and life… Beautiful way of life!

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Charlotte Walker January 19, 2018 - 2:31 pm

So glad the hear from you Gwen! It seems like New Brunswick might be the new hot spot for homestead living. We might have to hold a convention if a few years 🙂 Thanks for saying hello and do keep in touch. I would love to hear how your homestead journey is going.

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Jessica May 13, 2018 - 4:41 pm

I have read many posts on homesteading and this has been by far the best and most informational! Someday I would love to be like this and love dreaming of the possibilities!
Thank you for the time you’ve put into research and writing!

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Charlotte Walker January 7, 2019 - 1:08 pm

Thanks so much, Jessica, I truly appreciate the feedback.

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Carolyn January 15, 2019 - 11:44 am

This is the best article i have read on a homestead kitchen. Great job. Love the links also. Thank you!

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Kim Langevin March 24, 2020 - 12:06 pm

I really like your woodstove, never seen this combination of the cook top with this look. Can you tell me what brand it is?

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Charlotte Walker March 28, 2020 - 9:04 am

Hi Kim. The stove is the Pacific Energy 2.5 Newcastle in black painted cast and a glass door. We’ve had it since 2016 and still love it.

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