Monday, July 21, 2008

A History of Canning



The canning process dates back to the late 18th century in France when the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, concerned about keeping his armies fed, offered a cash prize to whoever could develop a reliable method of food preservation. Nicholas Appert conceived the idea of preserving food in bottles, like wine. After 15 years of experimentation, he realized if food is sufficiently heated and sealed in an airtight container, it will not spoil. An Englishman, Peter Durand, took the process one step farther and developed a method of sealing food into unbreakable tin containers, which was perfected by Bryan Dorkin and John Hall, who set up the first commercial canning factory in England in 1813. As more and more of the world was explored, and as provisioning armies took on greater importance, the demand for canned foods grew. Thomas Kensett, who emigrated to the United States, established the first U.S. canning facility for oysters, meats, fruits and vegetables in New York in 1812. More than 50 years later, Louis Pasteur provided the explanation for canning's effectiveness when he was able to demonstrate that the growth of microorganisms is the cause of food spoilage.

The Natural Option: Contemporary Canning

The basic principles of canning have not changed dramatically since Nicholas Appert and Peter Durand developed the process. Heat sufficient to destroy microorganisms is applied to foods packed into sealed, or "airtight" containers. The canned foods are then heated under steam pressure at temperatures of 240-250°F (116-121°C). The amount of time needed for processing is different for each food, depending on the food's acidity, density and ability to transfer heat. For example, tomatoes require less time than green beans, while corn and pumpkin require far more time.

Processing conditions are chosen to be the minimum needed to ensure that foods are commercially sterile, but retain the greatest flavor and nutrition. All processes must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Once the cans are sealed and heat processed, the food maintains its high eating quality for more than two years and is safe to eat as long as the container is not damaged in any way. And, like the home canning process, no preservatives are added or necessary.

The sequence of steps in the canning process differs with the product. Fruits and vegetables may be peeled or pitted, and have stems removed prior to canning. Some vegetables receive a heat treatment before they are placed in the can to remove air and improve packing. (Think about the bulk of raw vs. cooked spinach!) Acid juices, like orange and tomato, and acid vegetables, such as sauerkraut, can be sterilized before they are placed into containers. Seafood is usually packed after being boned or shelled, with the exception of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, or even salmon, which have bones that are softened by heating. Meats and fish, like tuna, are usually cooked to soften the flesh before canning, separated from bones, compacted and placed in cans with appropriate liquid.

"Information provided by the Canned Food Alliance. For hundreds of nutritious, delicious, easy recipes that use canned food, visit"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I grew up in Nebraska on a farm and watched my Mom and grandmothers make jam.

I remember shaking the mulberry tree and cleaning up the fruit in preparation for canning. My interest in canning grew after moving to the city and seeing all of the preservatives that go into your food. I began to make as much as I could from scratch, as it was healthier, more cost effective, and it ALWAYS tastes better.

- Cherie Darling, proprietor of Sweet Darling