The tomatoes are heirlooms, and the canning kettle is an heirloom of another sort, handed down from my mother. But this year I gladly broke one canning tradition: the long, long wait for my slow-poke electric stove to bring gallons of water to a full boil.

Canning has always turned out to be a steamy three-ring circus, with the hot plate often coming into play when I run out of burners to heat up the canning kettle, the lids and equipment, and whatever I was canning. It's made me a reluctant canner, but every year I run out of freezer space for sauces and soups, so this year I broke down and bought an induction burner. It's not one of the fancy-pants high-end models, some of which cost as much as the new stove I'd rather have, but 1,800 watts seems to do the job. It cuts the initial boil time significantly, and even more welcome, it brings the water back up to a boil nearly immediately after you put in the jars, all with far less heat pumped into the kitchen.

Induction burners are supposed to work with pans that have a flat, magnetic bottom. My canning kettle doesn't qualify as entirely flat, but it seems to work. Induction burners won't work well with pans that are only slightly magnetic, and while an induction interface disk can let you use nonmagnetic pans, it may not produce the same rapid boil times as induction-ready pans.  One other note of warning for those considering an induction burner for canning use: Be sure to check out the weight limits. A gallon of water weighs more than 8 pounds, and depending on the diameter of your kettle, you may well need at least two and a half gallons of water to cover pint canning jars, plus the weight of the kettle and the loaded jars.

Now I have no more excuses not to can all those tomatoes that -- finally! -- started to turn ripe in apron-filling bunches. I just wish my mother, who relentlessly canned through hot Augusts, could have had such technology available to her.

What garden produce is cooking in your canning kettle? Or are you a freezer filler? Either way, there's a taste of summer in your future when you crack open the preserved goodness in January.