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Sunday, 24 November 2013


In 1795 Napoleon Bonaparte who at the time was in charge of the French army of the interior, offered a prize for a practical way of preserving food for his marching army. On hearing of this potential reward, Nicholas-Francois Appert, a French maker of conserves of fruit started experimenting with cooking food in open kettles, then sealing food into glass jars using waxed cork bungs, wired into place. The jars were then heated by submersion in boiling water for varying lengths of time. Using this method he succeeded in preserving dairy products, fruits, jellies, juices, marmalades and vegetables and claimed the 12, 000 franc prize.

Appert published a book, Art de Conserver which generously made his preservation process available to all.

In 1812 Nicholas-Francois Appert used the prize money he won to establish the first commercial cannery, the House of Appert, at Massy. He used jars and bottles as his containers.

Thomas Kensett established the first U.S. canning facility for oysters, meats, fruits and vegetables in New York in 1812

Around the same time, in England, Bryan Donkin, a versatile British industrialist set up a factory for preserved foods for the Royal Navy. He used the heat-sterilization process invented by Appert to produce tin canisters made of iron coated with tin to pack canned meats, soups and vegetables.

In 1825 Ezra Daggett and Thomas Kensett of New York City patented a canning process to preserve salmon, oysters and lobsters.

A can of food left by Sir John Franklin in the Arctic in 1845 was found to still be edible in 1939. Several of Franklin’s team were killed by lead poisoning caused by the canning process.

37 years after French Nicholas Appert developed canning, Henry Evans Jnr invented a pendulum press which, combined with a die device, could make a can in a single operation. His invention enabled the production of cans to be increased from 6 to 60 per hour.

Unfortunately no one had invented a device for prying off the lids off these early sealed food containers, so people had to use a hammer and chisel.

Ezra J. Warner of Waterbury, Connecticut patented the first U.S. can opener in January 1858, a cross between a bayonet and a sickle.

A Mason jar is a molded glass jar used in canning to preserve food. It was invented and patented in 1858 by Philadelphia tinsmith John Landis Mason. The easy and re-usable jars made home canning popular for mid 19th century Americans, but most Mason jars were manufactured by competitors after his patent expired in 1879.

The earliest use of the word ‘tinned’ to refer to food given by the Oxford English Dictionary is an 1861 reference by Mrs Beeton to “tinned turtle.”

By the mid 1860s, domestic can openers were being made in America. They were called Bull's Head tin openers, as they had a cast-iron handle shaped into a bull's head and tails and are sold with tins of beef.

French canned bouilli (boiled) beef was fed to the French army in the Franco-Prussian War. It was ideal for soldiers on the move; they could eat it cold straight from the can

The Gottfried Krueger Brewing  Company placed the first canned beer on sale, in Richmond, Virginia, on January 24, 1935.

Cliquot Club Ginger Ale was the first canned soft drink. It was introduced in America in 1938. A cone top can produced by Continental Can Company was used, but the sodas were beset by leakage and flavor absorption problems from the can liner.

Many customers were complaining that the current can coatings were not sufficiently developed and because the beer inside was exposed to the metal, it had a metallic taste. As a consequence Coors Brewing introduced in 1959 the first two-piece aluminium beverage can, which it hoped wouldl not only result in better tasting beer but would be more environmentally friendly. The company encouraged their customers to return the 7-ounce cans for recycling rather than just disposing of them, as was the case with the steel cans, which were littering the nation’s highways.

In 1963 Ermal “Ernie” Fraze, a Kettering, Ohio tool-maker and founder of the Dayton Reliable Tool Company, invented the pop-top can by weakening a section of metal at the top of a can. With a rivet to hold it in place, it could be torn open easily. He was inspired to develop a self-opening can after being forced to force open a drinks can on a car bumper at a family picnic because no one had brought along a can opener. The Alcoa and Pittsburgh Brewing Company was the first to use these easy opening pull-ring tabs.

In 1964 The American soft drink company Royal Crown started selling Diet-Rite Cola and RC Cola in all-aluminium cans. They were the first soft drink to be sold in such a way.

In 1974, samples of canned food from an 1865 steamboat wreck were tested by the National Food Processors Association. Although appearance, smell and vitamin content had deteriorated, there was no trace of microbial growth and the 109-year-old food was determined to be still safe to eat.

In Japan, beer cans have braille on them so blind people won't confuse alcoholic drinks with soft drinks.

Soda is so corrosive, that without BPA or equivalent liner, an aluminum can would break after three days.

The hole in the ring of a soft drinks can is not just meant to give you leverage while opening one, it is also meant to be spun around and hold your straw.

About 200 billion cans of food are produced worldwide every year.

Source Food For Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles Of The World by Ed Pearce

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