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Food that keeps longer

The discovery of how to preserve fresh food to make it last longer has probably saved lives and made us independent of the seasons in many ways. Here's a brief story of preserving and some ideas for creating and storing modern preserves.

Napoleon and canning

The date usually commemorated as the start of canning is August 25 1910, the date when the British inventor Peter Durand patented a method for preserving food by canning it. Actually the method was developed by the Parisian confectioner François Nicolas Appert in response to a competition launched by Napoleon Bonaparte who offered 12,000 francs in gold to anyone who could develop a reliable method of preserving food for the army. Appert discovered that food could be sterilised by heating it to 100 degrees Celsius in an airtight container. This meant that bacteria and other microorganisms would be destroyed and the canned fruit, vegetables and meat would keep for a long time.

 

Of course, various methods of preserving food had been known and practised long before Napoleon's competition. Stone Age people roasted hazelnuts, because they found roasted nuts kept longer. The Romans preserved vegetables in oil and fruit in honey. They smoked meat and pickled food in salt water. In the Middle Ages, salting was the chief method for preserving fish and meat.

Live independent of seasonal shortages

Without some form of preserving – bottling, marinating, drying, pickling or smoking – a lot of food would deteriorate very quickly. And without the ability to preserve foods, today's food industry would be quite different. Preserving was and still is a kind of time machine that lets you enjoy out-of-season fruit and vegetables without resorting to freezing and industrial storage methods.

 

By contrast with fresh fruit and vegetables, preserved foods are very easy to store – you simply stack them up on shelves or in a cupboard. You don't need to freeze them or even chill them and they will nonetheless keep for a long time. The airtight and lightproof packaging not only defeats microorganisms, darkness also preserves vitamins.

Even preserves can deteriorate

Preserves have an amazingly long shelf life. Canned foods will keep almost indefinitely if they are stored at under 40° C. However, you might see changes in consistency, colour and taste if the preserves are well past their use-by date.

 

You're sure to have heard stories of canned food that has gone bad. If you notice that a can is bulging or a jar where the seal no longer creates a vacuum, then beware! Or if you open a jar or a tin and notice that the liquid is suspiciously cloudy or smells peculiar, then you'd be well-advised to discard the contents. Food stored in dented, or rusty, tins should not be eaten. Spoiled food in damaged tins carries the risk of food poisoning.

 

As soon as you've opened a can, tip any contents left after a meal into a porcelain or plastic container with a lid. This prevents fruit, for example, reacting with the exposed metal of the can. With canned tomatoes or mushrooms (which often have lemon juice added to preserve the colour), the risk is that the acids in the contents will react with zinc compounds in the metal. At the very least, this will spoil the taste of the food. Food that was in a tin can be kept for several days in the fridge – in a closed plastic container.

Source: Zu gut für die Tonne!