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History of Food Preservation Methods

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Published: Wed, 04 Apr 2018

  • Yasmine Dabash

The Sustainment of Foodstuffs Over the Years

Isn’t it nice to go home and microwave a frozen TV dinner after a long day of work? Without the invention of food preserving technologies such as the refrigerator or the freezer, such would have never been possible.This is because both technology and science are interdependent on one another. Since ancient times, food has been preserved in a number of ways including refrigerating and heating, drying and salting, and canning and jarring. Over the centuries, the human race has been equipped with superior knowledge thus enabling us to continually improve technology. It is common to see technology morph to adequately fit updated knowledge, A common example of this is cell phones which often update with more features in more condensed models. Food preservation today is the result of many hundreds of years’ worth of work towards the sustainment of foodstuffs.

Most mediocre households contain a refrigeration and freezer unit which is used daily to preserve foods for an allotment of time. Refrigeration has a particularly long history’ for many centuries, people would carve large blocks of ice from nearby fresh water sources and put it iceboxes, which they used to keep their food cool. Even today in remote Amish-culture societies, people use this technique of refrigeration. Around the same time, people would store their produce in 30-40°F root cellars. It wasn’t until 1918 that the first Frigidaire was created then mass produced. Then twelve years later, the eco-friendly, Freon-less refrigerator model we used today, patented by Albert Einstein and a colleague, was introduced. (findingdulcinea.com) Twoother modes of food preservation which have a long history, primarily in hot climates of the world include drying and salting.

The methods of drying and salting to preserve fish, meat, and vegetables were been predominate in dry, hot climates (ie. the southern states of America) for hundreds of years. One of the most common ways of curing meat is salting, which has been carried out since ancient times by packing meat in heavy amounts of salt in barrels; this method of meat preservation was not replaced until the times of advanced freezing and refrigeration. Drying meat, another popular mode of meat curing, has a goal of simply evaporating the liquid content of the meat. This is because microorganisms need a certain amount of moisture to survive in an environment, so by removing the water content from the meat you are thus making the meat unlivable for the bacteria which causes spoilage. (fao.org) This is also the same reason dried fruits (raisins, dried apricots, Craisins, etc.) last a longer time than its fresh form. Food can be preserved for long term storage through the methods of canning and jarring.

By canning and jarring food you are sterilizing then inhibiting bacterial growth in the food, therefore lengthening the longevity of the food’s shelf life by far. Usually vegetables and meats are packages in sealed tin cans rather than jarred; some common examples of canned foods are corn, tuna, processed beef, and soup. Jarring is also a ordinary way of conserving pickles, jams and jellies, baby food, and tomato sauce. Fermenting foods by storing them in a vinegar and salt brine within a sterilized glass jar is called pickling. Pickling is an endeavor practiced to preserve mainly vegetables (most commonly cucumbers). Unfortunately this method increases the salt content and lowers the vitamin content of the foodstuffs preserved. Preservatives can often times be added to foods to foods to make them last longer.

Sometimes, when processing foods, preservatives are added to help conserve the foods by killing bacteria or slowing bacteria activity. These preservatives come in four major categories; benzoates, nitrites, sulfites, and sorbic acid. Sodium benzoate is a salt commonly combined with acidic and carbonated products including juices, sodas, salad dressings, and others. Sodium nitrate, although controversial now, is a naturally occurring food preservative found in salt, sugar, vinegar, and alcohol. Sulfites, although banned from fresh, raw eaten produce, is used when preserving dried fruits and dried potato products. Sorbic acid is the most used food preservative in the industry as it is considered the safest of the four common preservatives. It is known to prevent the growth of fungi, yeast, and mold. Sometimes preservatives are dismissed and limited by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve the overall health of our foods, which is the number one concern when it comes to food and food preservation. There are a variety of organizations and universities that support and research into the study of food preservation.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation, based at the University of Georgia, primarily focuses on the preservation of produce and what safety regulations and methods should be carried out to ensure safe, convenient preserved foods both domestically and industrially (nchfp.uga.edu). Even the most unexpected can contribute to a cause; the United States Atomic Energy Commission majorly brought the rise to the use of irradiation to preserve food, especially for NASA (The NationalAeronauticsandSpaceAdministration) astronauts to eat whilst in space. Although it may seem ridiculous, the Mayflower Trading company is the largest online store for long-lasting, storable foods, emergency preparedness, and alternative power. It may seem like the go-to site for the impending zombie apocalypse but its contributions towards the longevity of preserved foods (mainly canned) are remarkable. On the topic of contributions to the field of food preservation, there is a whole list of remarkable individuals who have majorly impacted food preservation as we know it.

Many people have contributed to food preservation as will including the renowned Louis Pasteur. Louis Pasteur created the method of pasteurization which ensures the sterility and safety of our milk and other milk products even today. Nicolas Appert might as well be known as the ‘Father of Jarring’. Nicolas Appert came up with the concept that by heating and sterilizing a product then placing the substance in a sterilized, air-tight jar would make is long-lasting and sterile after a decade of experimentation in the hopes that he would gain recognition by Napoleon for his works. Napoleon awarded Appert with a good deal of money for his findings and used this new knowledge to his advantage by sending sterilized, preserved foods with his armies. Another recent man to make his name in history for contributing to food preservation was Daniel Farkas, a former food scientist. Farkas discovered high-pressure preservation which kills bacteria and pathogens. This method of preserving food is also known as pascalization and bridgemanization (oregonstate.edu).

Over time, methods of food preservation have improved vastly to conform to our modernized world. Now more than ever we are able to store foods for years upon years without it going rancid. Plus, it I simple to use and effective, it is easy enough to store your food in the refrigerator, whereas in the eighteenth century you would hve to keep your food in an iebox outside of your house. Even so, Food producers should aim toward maintaining not only the food itself but also its nutritional value. Most means of food preservation, such as pickling, salting, and freezing diminish the nutrition of the food you eat. The more fresh foods we eat, the closer we may become to optimum health; hopefully in years to come we will be able to not only conserve food but also nutrients.


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