The History of Preserving2013 Feb 06 | Written by: Samantha Jones | Tags: Preserving
Where preserving all began…
When making your home-made preserves today, part of the appeal is its charming heritage and old-fashioned style, which bring about a sense of nostalgia for decades past. The rich history of preserving dates back as far as 1795 with its origins arising in France, when the French government maintained a vast army and navy and was involved in foreign wars as well as a revolution at home.
With food often scarce and seasonal, the French government endeavoured to solve this problem by offering a price of 12,000 francs to the person, or persons who could invent a method of preserving food so that it would remain fresh and edible for extended periods of time. A long 14 years passed before finally, a Parisian confectioner, by the name of Nicolas Appert, produced a satisfactory method for preserving food and collected the prize in 1809 from Napolean himself!
Appert’s method of preservation involved putting food into wide-mouthed glass jars and heating them to drive out the air, which he hypothesised was the cause behind the deterioration of the produce, and finished this process by closing them with tight-fitting cork lids to ensure the contents remained fresh. Nowadays, though there is far more information around the science of canning and food preservation, the basic principles remain the same as those used by Appert.
Perfecting the art of preserving
In 1810, a year after Nicolas Appert collected his prize, Peter Durand, an Englishman, used a metal canister for the first time to house his produce, which was based on the design of an old tea canister. While this use has merit, Durand’s lack of scientific understanding as to the principles of preserving meant the cans were frequently bursting and not particularly economical.
It was in that same year in London that the first English canning company, Donkin and Hall, was formed and would go on to have a 54 year successful, independent history. During this time, canning factories in the United States in Boston and Baltimore had also sprung up and were the first large-scale food preserving factories.
Preserving and the ‘every man’
While factories and businesses were profiting from this revolutionary form of prolonging the life and edibility of produce, it was simultaneously gaining wide spread traction among the common man, who was able to take the principles of preserving founded by Nicolas Appert to produce home-made food preserves.
With food often a rarity and certain kinds of produce only available in certain months during this time, finding a way to make sure there was plenty to eat year round was an invaluable tool.
The Italian Way
Nowadays, when we think back to the origins of preserving, little thought is given to Nicholas Appert, instead preserving has become intangibly linked to Italian culture, where it has transcended simple necessity into a carnival-style art form passed on from generation to generation. Undoubtedly, preserving food is an Italian way of life that pays homage to a rich tradition that speaks of family, wisdom and heritage, bringing families together in event fashion to make preserves, sauces and conserves for the year to come!