In addition to telling her readers about the canning class offered by the Washington State University Extension Service, Denn gives readers some advice about canning and avoiding botulism at the same time. She credits WSU’s Jessica Dally for these words of wisdom:
1. Don’t assume a recipe or canning process is safe because it was handed down from your grandparents. "Your grandmother or grandfather or whoever was canning might have gotten away with a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to." (This makes me feel better about not having learned canning at my grandmother’s knee. At least I learned applesauce.)
2. Don’t use old recipe books or ancient canners; invest in newer ones. Canners have been redesigned, our understanding of food safety has improved; even the way we grow some produce has changed. Dally recommends this book and this one.
3, If your pressure canner uses a dial gauge, it needs to be checked annually for accuracy. And there are very, very few places anymore that check gauges. Use a canner with a weighted gauge to make your life easier.
4. After your goods are canned, store them without the rings around the jar lids. If the seal should break, you want to know about it; you don’t want the ring holding the lid in place. Besides, that lets you re-use the rings instead of buying a new batch each time you can. For the same reasons, don’t stack your canned goods; store them in a single layer.
5. Do not alter recipes. Even a tweak like adding extra garlic can change the food’s acidity and the recommended processing time. "You are playing around with something you don’t want to play around with."
6. A jar lifter can be your best friend in the canning kitchen.
Faulty home canning has long been a source of botulism. Commercial canning had a long track record of going botulism-free, but sadly as Castleberry’s and New Era has shown, that is no longer the case.