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canning round-up [squared] & my first of many mistakes

Making yogurt is easy.

I’m beginning with the above affirmation, both because it’s the message I want you to walk away from this post with and because I am adopting it as a new mantra after my less-than-easy first experience. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As part of my Urban Farm Handbook challenge, I made it a goal to make yogurt (in keeping with the dairy theme of March) by the end of the month. It was a modest goal considering all I technically needed to take on the task was…leftover yogurt with active cultures and milk. Seriously, that’s all. I say ‘technically’ because I knew there a few other items that would make the experience more user-friendly, so I opted to grab some canning jars and a jar-extractor-thingy from my favorite local hardware store.

In keeping with Emily of SAHM i AM’s tutorial, I assembled the following items to begin making yogurt (not all are pictured):

  1. 2 QT-sized canning jars
  2. large pot filled with water
  3. 1/2 c. room-temp. yogurt with active cultures (we buy Stonyfield plain whole-milk yogurt)
  4. 2 QT whole milk, not ultrapasteurized (I get local milk in jars from a farm up the street
  5. thermometer
  6. whisk
  7. cooler
  8. bath towel
  9. fancy jar-extractor-thingy*

*Jar-extractor-thingy is optional, but it makes the process easier…and more fun!image
Check out Emily’s post for the steps, tips, and tricks. I’d gotten the milk going and was all set to relax and wait, which the point where I realized I had a full sink of dishes. The sink that was momentarily supposed to become a cooling station. I’m an idea girl, not a doer, remember? No biggie, I’m the world’s best dish-washing procrastinator, so I had those puppies stacked high on the counter in no time. The dishes are done, dude.

Next comes the big, jar-breaking error. I don’t personally delight in running an all-day bacteria lab in my kitchen–and I had a cranky, still teething toddler to shoo away cuddle with–so I wanted the process to move as quickly as possible. The gist of where I went wrong was that I mis-read advice in my Urban Farm Handbook to go from 180 degF to 115 degF as fast as possible using an ice bath. The key difference in why their method works and mine resulted in a broken jar is that they specifically write: “Put the pan of yogurt in…” See, pan not jar. Ohhhhhhh. Below is the sad result of my mistake…

I quickly went to Facebook to find out if I had in fact gone from hot to cold too soon, as I suspected, or if it was possibly just bad luck to get a dysfunctional jar the first time around. Another Emily, of Butter Believer, confirmed my suspicion by writing that you can’t go from hot to cold quickly without a glass jar breaking. It’s one of those things that once it happened, I thought “OH DUH.” But even in the midst of battle, I am a conceptual thinker, which means that in the world of medical emergencies, you want me doing triage, not surgery. Ha! At least my sense of humor is intact.image
Thankfully one of my experimental glass projects survived, and I was able to continue breeding bacteria babies in the towel-wrapping-and-cooler-sitting portion of the instructions. I whispered sweet nothings to my precious solo jar, praying that it would magically work. And it did. I’m happy to report that after a six-hour nap (for the yogurt not me, although that sounds heavenly), I had a quart of yogurt! The girls happily consumed some of the batch for breakfast, none the wiser of their supermom’s new talent. I considered bringing Vivi in on the inaugural round, but I’m glad I didn’t. I can only imagine how much more stressful the breakage would have been without choice swear words and with a question-slinging preschooler under foot.image

Upon making this simple canning error, I decided it was about time for me to hunker down and read up about canning once and for all. I have been postponing the reading for months in favor of my Google Reader  list of doula books, but I have been gathering resources all the while. I thought perhaps you might like to begin this journey with me, so I’m sharing some of those resources today. I am calling it a round-up [squared] because this is really a round-up of others’ round-ups. A canning Inception, or Can-ception, if you will. Hardy har har. Some of these resources are bound to overlap, but I say the more the merrier. Here we go…


Canning Round-Up [Squared]

  • Julia at What Julia Ate basically already did what I’m doing now, but it couldn’t hurt to have it twice, right?
  • Punk Domestics is a great community of DIY food bloggers with their own canning tips and has quite possibly the best name of any blog ever.
  • My favorite canning bloggers who offer up deliciously pin-able recipes are: Food in Jars, Local Kitchen, What Julia Ate, and Roving Lemon’s Big Adventure. They are awesome!
  • Marisa at Food in Jars offers a list of online resources
  • Kaela at Local Kitchen does a great job of guiding newbies into the world of canning in a boiling water bath, my go-to method since I am not planning to purchase a pressure-canner.
  • Canning Across America (as corny as me apparently, considering their Join the Canvolution! tag-line) has a resource list
  • Grit’s online magazine also has a short beginner’s guide, which is more of an overview of the practice.
  • Since it’s my alma mater, I’ll also include University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation, which has another round-up of resources. Too bad I wasn’t interested in canning back in college! I can visualize myself canning pickles in the dorm kitchen and eating them while studying for finals. On second thought, remembering my dorm kitchen is giving me hives, so strike that back-in-time fantasy.
  • As for what else you can do with the mason jars you buy for canning, I wrote a post a while back showing the mason jar some love
  • Please also feel free to follow my canning board on Pinterest if you are so inclined. It includes many of the above links and more. 

Do you have any favorite canning resources that I missed? Do tell! I would love to hear about your experiences, ideas, and resources. I was happy to hear from Kaela at Local Kitchen that the bulk of canning happens from June to October, so it’s not too late for me to hop on the 2012 Can-omotive train. CAN you join me? All aboard! Yuk yuk.

Until next time. I CAN’t wait. Okay, I’ll stop now.

p.s. I am in LOVE with Photobucket’s new editing tools. Can you tell? It used to seem as though I hardly ever had a reason to use their service, but now I find myself playing there on a daily basis. I don’t have an iPhone (thus no Instagram), so this is my way of pretending I’m one of the cool kids.

Editor’s note: 

Update! (6/4/12): I have found a fool-proof method to ensure my glass jars do not break again (Unfortch, I lost another jar in between when I posted this and now). Now I put in a small tea towel under the jars so they don’t rattle in my pot, and I turn the heat to a 6 or 7 instead of high heat. Yes, it takes a bit longer, but I’ll take 10 more minutes over a pool of milky water any day.

This post is a part of Freaky Friday, the Homestead Barn HopMonday ManiaSeasonal Celebration Sunday, and Sunday School