Preserving Food By Canning: A quick bit of history

By Kitty R Lynn

Humans have dried, salted and fermented food since before recorded history. One of the biggest moments in preserving food was in 1795 when the French Army offered money to anyone who could discover a way to preserve food for the troops. A chef and scientist Nicolas Appert decided to try.

Appert filled small mouthed jars with various kinds of food, corked the bottles and wired the corks on the jars, just like the tops of wine bottles. Appert put the jars into cloth sacks and lowered them into pots of boiling water. This is the water bathing system we still use. Others had preserved food before Appert but his principles of removing the air and sealing the jars was finally being applied on a large scale.

Later in 1858 (so quite a bit later) John Mason invented the glass jars with threaded tops. Mason’s invention did away with the corks because he made the lids from glass also. The famed red rubber ring made it possible to create a strong and lasting seal on the jars. It was not until a great number of years later that lids were made from metal with the red rubber ring attached. The metal lids were a much easier application but unlike the glass lids they could only be used once.

Many other people over the years added their help to the process of preserving food through canning – Samuel Prescott and William Underwood with their studies of bacteriology, clearly defining what made the food spoil and Louis Pasteur with his process of pasteurization to destroy micro organisms to name a few. A great number of people working diligently to solve a single common problem, “The need to have food available to everyone, everywhere throughout the year” (L.Ferrari.)

Canning has gone through many ups and downs in popularity. The invention of the metal can, and the creation of grocery stores, sadly, created a decline in home canning. Happily, to this writer in particular, people are returning to this fine art. People are canning and preserving their own food to feel a sense of security. They know the food they preserve from their own garden, local markets and farmers is good wholesome food. They preserve and can the food to know exactly what they are eating and serving to their families. The sense of confidence that you gain being more self sufficient in the food arena compares to a victory without equal.

One other aspect equally as important as confidence, security, and the eating of wholesome food, is the pleasure it offers to be able to see your accomplishments and give some of your home canned goods as gifts. It’s hard to not enjoy a delicious jam or savory sauce that someone made for you with their own two hands. The history of canning was about need, the need for good, safe nutritious food. I say we still have that need but let’s include the pleasure and joy of participating in this fine art! Let’s can something today.

Our Sustenance Greenhouse will be hosting a free Healthy Roots Intro to Canning workshop on Thursday, September 3 from 6-8 p.m. Call 519-445-4779 for more information.

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