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Nicolas Appert was born at Châlons-en-Champagne, Marne, on 17th November 1749. Appert became a confectioner in Paris. The bottle was then placed in boiling water, until the contents were cooked.
In January 1810 he won a prize for his invention. Later that year he published details of his research in the book, The Art of Preserving Animal and Vegetable Substances. Appert established the first food bottling factory in the world in Massy. He patented his invention and established a business to preserve a variety of food in sealed bottles. It is claimed by some critics that the temperature was so high that it destroyed some of the flavour of the preserved food.
Appert's method of food preservation spread to the rest of Europe. In 1812 Bryan Donkin established a canning factory in Bermondsey. Donkin used tinned iron containers instead of bottles. A hammer and chisel were needed to open cans until the invention of a can opener in 1855.
Nicolas Appert died in Massy on 1st June 1841.
Nicolas Appert’s contribution to canned food
Canning is one of the most common ways of packaging food around us. We can find canned meat, canned fish and canned fruit in the supermarket. The packaging method of cans preserves the shape of the food inside the cans, and the hard shell provides convenient for transportation and stacking of cans. However, looking back at the development of canning, like other great achievement, this is not happened overnight. Nicolas Appert, known as the father of canning, has extensive experience in the food industry. A former worker at a pickled cabbage factory, winery, candy factory and restaurant, when he ran his own candied food business, he found that selling fruit pulp and wine, and he found that in the same storage environment he believed, some foods were prone to spoilage, some can be kept for a long time. In order to solve this puzzle, he began to explore the reason.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the issue of food supplies to the army made the French government anxious at the time. Rushing on the road and the hot environment accelerate the speed of food spoilage. Food cannot be provided in time, which will inevitably lead to a decline in the physical fitness of the soldiers participating in the war and weaken the combat effectiveness of the troops. In order to solve this thorny problem, the government at that time took out a large bounty to find a way to preserve food for a long time.
Nicolas Appert discovered a bottle of juice that had not been used for a long time but had not gone bad, so he began researching ways to extend the shelf life of food. Nicolas Appert conjectured that the spoilage of food may be caused by air. In Nicolas Appert’s view, the glass bottle was the device that could be used at that time, with the least air penetration. Therefore, because of this its material and the advantages of holding more things, the wide-mouth glass bottle has become the object of Nicolas Appert’s choice of installation food.
Finally, in 1804, after nearly a decade of hard and repeated experiments, Nicolas Appert discovered the mystery. He found that by sealing the food in the bottle and heating it appropriately, the food in the bottle can be stored for a longer period of time without spoiling.
After many attempts, Nicolas Appert stoop up again in the failure of the experiment. At last he came up with a more comprehensive method, that is, first fill the glass jar with food, then gently stopper the bottle with a cork, put it in water and boil for 30 to 60 minutes. Before the food has not cooled down, use a cork stopper to close the bottle mouth tightly, and finally use thread to reinforce the canvas or seal the bottle mouth with wax. In this way, the purpose of preserving food and extending the shelf life can be achieved through the method of re-sealing after high-pressure and high-temperature sterilization and preservation. This was the original food canning technology. Nicolas Appert’s glass canned food is the original prototype of canned food.
Nicolas Appel’s method solved the army food problem encountered by Napoleon. This technology is also widely used in food preservation in the military and nautical future.
Soon after Nicolas Appert’s glass cans, Peter Durand, an Englishman, began to choose a new material to store food. Instead of Nicolas Appert’s glass bottles, Peter Durand used tin cans. This technology has been passed to the United Kingdom and the United States. Canneries began to spring up on both lands. Canned food as a form of food packaging, has gradually entered people’s lives.After the appearance of the bottle opener, canned food as a form of packaging is more popular than ever before.
During the war, canned food influenced by Nicolas Appert became the army’s first choice. In modern society, the packaging of drinks such as Coca-Cola was also influenced by the Nicolas Appert bottling technology.
It can be seen that Nicolas Appert’s canning technology is a huge change that cannot be ignored for food preservation and even the entire food field.
Nicolas Appert Biography
Nicolas Appert is best known as a Inventor. French inventor of airtight food preservation who is known as the ‘Father of Canning’. There are 72 streets named after him in his native France. Nicolas Appert was born on November 17, 1749 in France. He was a confectioner and chef in Paris when he began to experiment with preserving his food stuffs. Nicolas Appert is one of the most successful Inventor. He has ranked on the list of famous people who were born on November 17, 1749.
He also has a position among the list of Most popular Inventor.
Family: Parents, Children & Relatives
He was born as the son of an innkeeper, who had no formal education. He has not shared enough information about family details. However, our team currently working, we will update Family, Sibling, Spouse and Childrens information.
|Other Relatives||Not Available|
Sterilization & Pasteurization
Preservation of food by means of heat (thermal processing) is a technology, which has been used for centuries and has become the standard treatment to reduce pathogens in perishable foods. Records state that, “the shelf-life of wine was elongated with heat since the 12th century in China.”
Sterilization: Nicolas Appert
Sterilization, also known as Apperisation is a treatment suitable for all perishable foods. Re discovered by Nicolas Appert in the 18th century as a treatment for the preservation of perishable foods in glass jars. By placing the jars in boiling water the harmful pathogens are denatured, prolonging self-life significantly.
Sterilization targets spores, to prevent re-growth in liquid media with a 12 Log reduction. A typical time-temperature for liquid products such as milk is a thermal treatment of 15 min at 121° C. Sterilization treatment alters the nature of food completely, giving it a cooked characteristic
Pasteurization: Louis Pasteur
The thermal process Pasteurization discovered by the chemist Louis Pasteur in 1862 is a milder treatment suitable for all perishable foods. A typical time-temperature treatment for liquid products is 2 min at 72° C, A 5 Log reduction for liquid media.
Louis Pasteur’s research on the fermentation process for wine growers in France let him to discover: That the nature of fermentation is caused by the growth of microorganisms. Pasteur demonstrated: The growth of bacteria in nutrient broths is due to biogenisis rather then a spontaneous generation. Together with Claude Bernard, Pasteur developed the pasteurization treatment, reducing the number of pathogens without radically altering food characteristics.
Nicolas Appert and the Invention of Canning
Canning dramatically changed how people around the world have dealt with food. Early canning efforts were kind of stabs in the dark, though – we hadn’t figured out the microbiology component yet.
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In celebration of the 100th anniversary of American women getting the vote, we're bringing you the voices of a hundred groundbreaking and history making women listen to Senecas 100 women to hear and I heart radio Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome to stuff you missed in History Class, A production of I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm Tracy B. Wilson. And I'm Holly Fahri. Today, we're going to talk about an innovation that dramatically changed how people around the world have dealt with food, and that's canning.
It is a topic that has been on both of our short lists for a while. Yeah, I think we talked about it like four years ago. Yeah, four years ago. And then more recently, like, there's it's been a thing that has come up a bunch of times. And I started thinking about it again earlier on in the pandemic here in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. We were having some disruptions in the supply chain.
Folks were stocking up on non-perishable stuff to get through shutdowns. And there's also just been a huge, huge increase in the need for food from food banks and similar resources. And now we are recording this five months to the day after the World Health Organization declared covid-19 to be a pandemic. All of this stuff is still really relevant. And so after having put it aside for other things, having had it linger on both of our lists for so long, I finally moved it back up to the top.
So food preservation stretches back to the very beginnings of human history. It is generally agreed that people started smoking meat not long after learning to start a fire. And all over the world, people have been smoking, drying, salting, curing, pickling and fermenting food for thousands and thousands of years. People in cold climates figured out early on the frozen food lasted longer and people have built structures like root cellars and spring houses to keep food cooler so it will not spoil as quickly.
In addition to just making their food last longer, peoples around the world have developed food preservation techniques that are also culturally important or significant and in some cases also delicious as well. Just as one example, we have a whole episode in the archive about how the world's cheeses tell the story of when and where they were developed. And one of the reasons for making cheese is that it can have a longer shelf life than fresh milk does. And trading in these preserved foods has also been a huge part of economies all over the world for millennia.
For example, people in coastal areas drying insulting fish to sell to people further inland. Most of these methods of food preservation, they come with some drawbacks, though many extend shelf life for a few weeks or months, but not far beyond that. And some others will change the flavor or texture or nutrient content or even the overall quality of the food in a way that isn't necessarily desirable. For example, salted meat can be incredibly salty. I don't see why that's a problem.
And soaking it to remove the salt also washes away water soluble nutrients. Curing food also takes a lot of sugar or salt, and those can be expensive or scarce depending on when or where you're talking about.
Yeah, obviously these are also just examples. Things can also get a lot more complicated with all of this. If you are a nation that has gone to war with most of your neighbors, causing you to lose most of your trading partners while also needing to support an army and a navy. In other words, if you're France around the turn of the 19th century.
Thanks for Margareth. Yeah. There's so much stuff that we've talked about on the show that is related to. Yeah. Military history in France in the late 70s, early 80s. Hundreds.
Yeah. So some of the specifics of France's search for a better way to preserve food are a little bit fuzzy. There are a lot of general articles that describe Napoleon's government offering a reward for a food preservation method that could help sustain the Army and Navy in 1795.
But Napoleon did not actually have control of the government. In 1795, he became first consul in 1799 and emperor of the French in 1884. His highest rank in 1795 was commander of the Army of the Interior. Other sources describe the French directoire, which was the French revolutionary government offering a reward in 1795, or Napoleon himself offering it in 1800.
The book that actually earned this award, though, does not mention any of that. Instead, it describes the Society for the Promotion of National Industry, which had been established in 1881, which offered rewards for, quote, discoveries from which the nation and humanity may draw substantial benefits. The book also describes the agricultural society putting out a call in 1889 to, quote, collect all the information and documents which might contribute to the composition of a work on the art of preserving by the best possible means.
Every kind of elementary substance, the person who earned that prize for the development of Canning leading to the writing of this book was Nicola Apair, who was awarded 12000 francs under the condition that he write up this detailed account of the work that he had done and provide the board with 200 copies of that book printed at his own expense. I wonder how much that bit into that 12000 francs. That's a good question. A pair was born in Shalaan, Sylmar, now called Shalon on Companya France on November 17th, 1749.
He was the son of an innkeeper and he did not have a formal academic education. He was interested in food and cooking, though, and he learned how to brew and pickle from his father. And he did apprentice with a chef. In 1780, a pair moves to Paris, became a confectioner, and five years later he married Elizabeth Benowa. The two of them went on to have five children, and by this point he had his own business, which combined a confectionery with the grocery store.
He had enough money to spare that he donated to the Revolutionary Army during the French Revolution. And he was also prominent enough to represent his political district at the execution of Louis the 16th. This also meant that he was prominent enough to be targeted during the reign of terror. He was arrested but ultimately cleared of suspicion in the 17 apair added a wholesale produce business to his confectionery and grocery store.
And that seems to be when he became more interested in food preservation. But he was missing a huge piece of knowledge that really would have helped him in his research, and that was knowledge of microbiology. Back in twenty eighteen, we did an episode on Anthony von Laybourne Huq, who is known as the father of microbiology, thanks to his spending a lot of time observing things through a microscope and documenting what he saw. He had started this work back in sixteen seventy three.
But by a Paris lifetime, two centuries later, this field was still really in its infancy. People didn't understand what these tiny things were that von Leyburn Hooke had described as animal kills. They didn't understand how they got there or what they did. A lot of people believed that these little things that he had documented so carefully somehow just spontaneously generated. I still want there to be an animated series called Animal Kulis.
I think that would be a lot of fun. I would watch it. It would sell like hotcakes, just me in 1767. So almost 100 years after leaving, Hooke's started his work. Princeton biologist Lazaro's Zarni published a paper on this subject. He had done experiments with four vials of broth, one open, one sealed, one boiled and then left open and one boiled and immediately sealed when he looked at the broth under a microscope. After some time had passed, the first three contained microorganisms.
The fourth, that one that had been boiled and sealed, did not spell. Anthony concluded that what he was seeing in those other three vials were living organisms that had been carried in from the air spell enzymes. Work did not totally convince proponents of spontaneous generation, though they made arguments that, like he had damaged some kind of vital essence that was necessary to spontaneous generation by boiling his brow for too long.
He also hadn't really made the connection that the life forms that he was observing could spoil food or cause illness. But he did demonstrate that heating something up and also protecting it from exposure to the air accomplished something. And his work on this subject was really the only thing in print when a pair was doing this work that documented that connection poorly understood as it was, you've killed the animal kills.
Now, a pair became convinced that stealing food away from air was the key to preserving it. And it took him almost fifteen years to come up with a method and to demonstrate that it worked. His conclusion, after all that time, quote, It is obvious that this new method of preserving animal and vegetable substance proceeds from the simple principle of applying heat in a do degree to the several substances after having deprived them as much as possible of all contact with the external air.
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Nicola Apair started trying to work out a way to preserve food in 1795, and we understand today that what he was doing was getting the food hot enough to kill the microorganisms in it, at least most of the time, but without cooking it so much that it became inedible. He was also keeping the food in a sealed container so that airborne microorganisms could re contaminate it. The sealed environment also meant that if any bacteria survived the heating process, they would not have the oxygen that they needed to survive.
Although bacteria that did not need oxygen, like the one that causes botulism still could potentially thrive. But Apair didn't really know about the connections between microorganisms, food spoilage and illness. He didn't know what temperatures it took to kill these organisms or how long they had to be at that temperature. He also didn't have a way to immediately tell whether he had been successful at any of it. So he had to do all of this work by trial and error, including just allowing time to pass before he opened his containers to see whether the food within them had spoiled or whether the container swelled up and burst or otherwise were visibly ruined.
His first successful attempts were in eight four, nine years after he started, but it took another five years before he was confident that he was seeing consistent results, since the pair was really sure that air was what was causing food to spoil, he worked with glass containers, closed with an airtight seal. Some of the first experiments he did, he used champagne bottles, which were designed to be stronger than a lot of other glassware. Eventually, he was using custom made vessels, ones that were roughly the size and shape of a champagne bottle for liquids and ones that had a larger mouth, more like a jar for solid foods, although the specifics varied from one food to another.
In every case, the method a pair developed followed the same basic four step process. In his words, translated from the French quote, It consists principally first in inclosing, in bottles, the substances to be preserved, second in caulking the bottles with the utmost care for it is chiefly on the caulking that the success of the process depends. Third, in submitting these inclosed substances to the action of boiling water in a water bath, America for a greater or less length of time according to their nature and in the manner pointed out with respect to each several kind of substance forth in withdrawing the bottles from the water bath at the period described, a pair stressed that the cork used for this absolutely had to be high quality.
You could not skimp on it. Cheap cork could break or leak and let the air in and that would ruin the contents. The same was true for the glass, which had to be able to withstand the pressure of the cooking process and being jostled around in transport. Even with those precautions, though, sometimes his bottles did break during cooking and for this reason he put the bottles and jars into purpose made canvas or linen facts, and then that would cushion the impact if they bumped against each other while they were cooking.
And it would also contain all the pieces if they shattered.
I remember my grandmother doing the same thing after cooking the bottled food for a greater or less length of time. According to their nature, a pair typically let things cool for about 15 minutes before draining the water from the bath. Then he let everything cool for another two hours or so before carefully removing and inspecting each bottle.
Any that had cracked or developed some kind of flaw in the glass were discarded. So were any that had moisture around the cork, which was a sign that they weren't actually airtight. Even after all this careful inspection, though, there were still times when the food went bad. A pair identified several possible failure points as the cause of this. In some cases, the bottle itself was to blame. It had some kind of flaw that wasn't immediately evident. But beyond that, he noted four sources of spoilage, quote one from a bad cork, two from bad caulking, three from the bottle having been filled to near the brim and four from bad tiang.
That was the tying of the cork to keep it in place. He also noted, quote, A single one of these faults is sufficient to spoil a bottle more easily, therefore a complication of them. The book that a pair wrote to document all of this was called The Art of Preserving All Kinds of animal and Vegetable Substances for several years.
And it describes a number of modifications of the basic process to get the best results when working with various foods.
This includes boiled meat, gravy broth, various cuts of meat, new laid eggs, milk, cream, whey vegetables, peas, asparagus. Which are vegetables, but they get specific nature's various beans, artichokes, cauliflower, sorrel herbs, fruits, juices, chestnuts, truffles and mushrooms and soups.
His breakdown of categories is funny to me because there are some things where it's like peas and asparagus are vegetables. Also artichokes and cauliflower are well.
So there's the general vegetable version. And there's this is actually best for peas, though.
Yes. So he found peas to be the vegetable that was the hardest to work with. If they were harvested too young, they were so tender that they just disintegrated and the cooking process. But if they were harvested just a few days later, they tended to lose their flavour or else they would ferment and cause the bottles to explode. Milk had to be condensed before preserving. And he found that unless egg yolks were added in there, the cream settled out of it as flakes.
When you used it later and heated it back up, that would be reincorporated. But it wasn't at that attractive in the bottle. A pear also canned eggs, recommending freshly laid eggs for the best results put into a jar with breadcrumbs to fill up the spaces and protect the eggs from breakage for strawberries. He found that he had to add a lot of sugar, but even then their colour really faded. A pear also detailed how to use foods that had been preserved through his methods.
And in a lot of cases he was basically I use these how I'd use them normally or I warm this up with a little bit of salt.
Reading through that part of the book was really funny to me because a lot of it really is. I drained the water out of this and cook it and eat it. And some of them was like, I dilute this condensed soup and then I eat it. It's I don't know if that part of it delighted me. In addition to keeping bottles and jars of food on hand to see his results for himself, a pear also gave samples of them to various people in the French Army and Navy and other officials who opened them up after months or years and then ate or served what was inside and then reported the results back to him.
His book included a written report from the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry, whose committee had received samples of part of calcium milk, whey Greenpeace small winzer beans, cherries, apricots, currant juice and raspberries. Overall, the committee described each of these foods as retaining their flavour and their character and just generally being excellent. A published his book and in 1810 he collected his monetary award. Within a year, the book had been translated into multiple other languages.
He was also awarded a gold medal from the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry.
Apair seems to have understood that his invention could do a lot more than just provide food for the Army, which had been part of the reasoning for this work in the first place. And his practical remarks at the end of the book he wrote, quote, Medicine will find in this method the means of relieving humanity by the facility of meeting everywhere and in all seasons, animal substances and all kinds of vegetables, as well as their juices preserved with all their natural qualities and virtues, by the same means that will obtain resources infinitely precious in the production of distant regions preserved in their fresh state.
He went on to say, quote, From this method will arise a new branch of industry relative to the productions of France by their circulation through the interior and their exploitation abroad of the produce with which nature has blessed the different countries. And then he concluded, quote, Finally, this invention cannot fail to enlarge the domain of chemistry and become the common benefit of all countries, which will derive the most precious fruits from it. So many advantages and an infinity of others, which the imagination of the reader will easily conceive produced by one and the same cause are a source of astonishment.
He was really not wrong for overstating any of this. Canning really changed the world and a lot of ways. And it has also evolved a lot from a person's work with glass bottles and jars. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, hundreds will hit the highlights on that evolution after a sponsor break. I'm Holly Frying, and I'm Maria FreeMarkets. Together, we're exploring the margins of history and specifically at the intersection of history and true crime.
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As is just so often the case, we can't really get into the details of every single development in the world of canning in the course of one episode, so we're just going to touch on some of the biggest moments. Almost immediately after Nicola Apair worked out his methods using glass containers, people also started doing the same thing with metal cans. In 1810, Peter Durand of England was awarded a patent for preserving foods in a range of vessels, including tin coated iron cans.
These cans were made by rolling a sheet of iron on a cylindrical form and then soldering the top and bottom of the Kant onto it. Steam escaped from a hole during cooking, and then that hole was Sartaj shut afterward. This, even though he got the patent for it, was not his own invention, though it had been, quote, communicated to him by a certain foreigner living abroad.
That person was Felipe de Jarrard of France, who had apparently gone to London to pursue his work because of administrative hassles at home, but since Britain and France were at war, Gerard could not apply for a British patent himself. So Durand applied for the patent on his behalf and then sold it to Brian Duncan of Duncan Ironworks. Tin coated iron had some advantages over glass. The biggest being that it was not so fragile. But these early cans were also a lot different from the ones that are in use today.
They were a whole lot thicker and heavier, and a tinsmith had to make each one of them by hand. The solder that was used to seal the seams also typically contained the lead, which could lead into the food and caused lead poisoning. The canning process itself could be incredibly time intensive, with the cooking process taking several hours at a minimum. And that meant the quality of the food often was not that great, which was compounded by the fact that a lot of what was being canned was sort of the cast-off stuff.
It wasn't pretty or fresh enough to be sold at a market. Also, no one had invented a can opener yet, so getting the food out of these tins was a hassle, even with a can opener I struck.
Even so, by 1812, Duncan had a factory up and running. It wasn't providing food to the general population, though. The cans themselves held up to 30 pounds of food and Duncan's primary customer was the British Royal Navy.
Even within the Navy, canned food was mostly reserved for very long voyages or expeditions that wouldn't have good opportunities to resupply and also for hospitals that were treating sick and convalescing men.
A pair was still working in France and he opened the first commercial cannery there in 1812. Although it was destroyed in 1814 as a result of the Napoleonic wars, he had to rebuild. After the war was over, his new factory used tin cans rather than glass.
Canning was also spreading beyond Europe in the early 19th century, with Robert AIA's opening a cannery in New York City in 1812 and other canneries in the US following from there. But still, people didn't really know why Canning worked. They just knew that it did most of the time. Sometimes cans swelled up and exploded, or when they were opened, the food inside was spoiled, but people just didn't really know why. To protect their reputations, canneries often stored their products for a while before shipping them out to customers, inspecting them for signs of swelling or other indicators of spoilage before filling their orders.
For the next few decades, the canning industry continued to grow and evolve. Nicola Apair died on June 3rd of 1841 at the age of 91, although he'd received numerous awards for his work during his lifetime. And he'd also done other work in the world of food. He had developed bullion cubes. He had created a method of extracting gelatin, and he'd also developed an autoclave. In addition to his work on Canning, he died alone and was buried as a pauper.
By the time of the pair's death, canned food was becoming more available outside of military context. But often it hadn't really been accepted by the general public. In many places, that started to change as soldiers returned from war, having gotten used to eating canned foods while they were serving, for example, in the United States, Gail Bourdon received a patent for canning condensed milk in 1856. His factory could make 16 quarts of it per day. And during the US civil war, there was so much demand for it from the union army that Bourdon had to license's method to other factories.
Confederate soldiers got a taste for condensed milk in hospitals and prisoner of war camps. And also, after raiding union supplies, consumer demand for condensed milk and other canned foods rose sharply in the United States after the war was over.
The first practical can openers were patented in the late 1950s, solving a long standing problem at that point. It was also in the mid 19th century that home Canning Technologies started to evolve. One step in that process was John L. Mason's patent for the Mason jar with a threaded neck that could accommodate a screw on cap. And that patent was issued in 1858.
In 1861, Isaac Solomon of Baltimore started adding calcium chloride to the water used for boiling cans, which raised its temperature from 212 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. That's from 100 to 115 degrees Celsius. The higher heat let cannery's reduce the cooking time required to make the food mostly safe. Then after all of this, decades of canning being in existence in. 1864, Louis Pasteur concretely established the link between microbial contamination and spoilage. He was building on the work of earlier scientists who had determined that the yeast involved in fermentation was alive.
He was trying to help a distiller figure out why his products were going sour during fermentation, and he discovered that bacteria were contaminating the fermentation process. This led to the development of pasteurization.
This started to give Canters more information to go on in terms of what temperatures they needed to use in canning and for how long. But at the same time, there was still a lot of trial and error involved. Consequently, canneries were extremely protective of their methods and formulas, and within the industry there was a lot of corporate espionage and attempts to entice skilled employees and the knowledge that they had developed away from their employers. Really, your formula for what you were canning and your process for doing it mostly safely was just like a highly valuable piece of information.
And it totally made the difference on whether your cannery could succeed or fail. The first machine cut rather than handmade tins came out in 1868, and that was part of an overall trend within the canning industry to cut down on the time and labor that was required at this point, low paid laborers, typically women that a lot of the food preparation, the packaging and the labeling skilled tinsmith who were usually men and were paid at a much higher rate, capped and sealed the cans.
So the industry really worked toward mechanizing the lower paid jobs to reduce the need for labor there entirely and then automating the tasks that required specialized training so that they could be done by less experienced workers. Other innovations shortened the cooking process, which both increased the factory's output and helped improve the quality of the food. One of these was the steam retaught patented by Andrew Schriver in 1874. The steam retort was like an autoclave which used steam and pressure to cook canned foods faster, but which also tended to explode in its first iterations.
Now there's just a surprising amount of things exploding in the history of canning. In 1895, Samuel S. Prescott and William Underwood started taking some of the mystery out of all of these times and temperatures that were needed for safe canning. Underwood was the director of Underwood Food Company, which canned a variety of foods, including Red Devil Ham. Prescot was an assistant chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Underwood had gone to MIT for help because his company's canned clams kept spoiling.
And while they were inspecting their goods before shipping to keep the spoiled clams off the market, this meant that they were just wasting a lot of product. They were canning a bunch of stuff that they had to throw away. They discovered that the culprit was a spore forming bacterium that could survive boiling for 24 hours through trial and error. They discovered that 10 minutes of exposure to pressurized steam at 120 degrees Celsius, that's two hundred forty eight degrees Fahrenheit, would kill it.
Prescott and Underwood then started examining other foods, figuring out which microorganisms were causing their spoilage and what needed to be done to kill those microorganisms.
This was way more specific than the previous work, which had kind of worked out the time and the temperature, but not really understanding why that was what worked most of the time. Prescott turned this work into a career that focused a lot on food safety and microbiology and played a huge role in reducing bacterial contamination and spoilage in canned foods. But in spite of his work, some things continued to be a problem, including specifically botulism and the United States, for example, there weren't clear standards for botulism prevention in the canning industry until the 1920s.
That was after a series of outbreaks in the 19 teens. Botulism contamination has also continued to be a rare but deadly issue in foods that are canned at home.
Home Canning was becoming more widely available and easier to do. By the late 19th century, the Ball Corporation started producing home canning jars. In 1884, Clear Glass Manufacturing Corporation started doing the same thing in 1933, and in 1915, Alexander Care was awarded a patent for a two piece metal canning lid, which replaced more complicated and harder to use lead systems from earlier models. Keer built on the work of Julius Landsburg, who had created a camming lid that had incorporated a sealing gasket.
The first pressure counters for home use were developed by the early 1920s, although at first they were so expensive that multiple households in the same family or community usually had to share one among them to make it cost effective.
In 1994, the Maxime's machine company of New York unveiled the double seam. Can this involved a machine that rolled a metal sheet onto itself, creating a seam that only needed to be sorted on the outside? The machine also sealed the can and crimped the edges. In addition to making this whole process a lot less labor intensive also meant that there was no longer lead containing solder on the inside of a can. The filling and capping process also became a lot easier.
Before this point, most of the industry was spilling cans through a hole in the cap and then feeling just that hole. It took about 15 years before a double seam. Cans were really reliable, though before that they again tended to burst at the seams.
By 1910, commercial canning lines could produce about thirty five thousand cans of food per day. That's a huge increase from the 60 cans a day back when tinsmith were making cans by hand. And the cans today look a lot like they did in 1910, although now there are more specialized coatings to protect the food quality and their innovations like peel tops and aluminum cans for beverages.
The industry has also seen a range of criticisms over the years involving whether canned foods are healthy, everything from the botulism contamination that we already talked about to the salt content of the food, to the use of things like bisphenol A in canned construction. Even so, at least 1500 different items are sold in tin plated steel cans the day, and Americans alone use more than 36 billion cans of food per year. In twenty eighteen, the global canned food market was valued at ninety one point four billion dollars.
That's billion with a B.. The development of reliable, cost effective camming has had such an enormous impact on the world that it's kind of difficult to describe it in a concise way. In general, Canning has made the global food supply more homogenized. So many foods became available outside of their regular growing season and outside of the region where they are grown, prepared and traditionally eaten. Many farms moved from growing a variety of crops that their immediate community would need to growing a few crops to be sold to processing companies, the farms themselves consolidated, and so did the canning companies.
Clearly, there is more involved with that whole shift than just Canning, but Canning is a significant piece of it. Yeah, Canning also made a lot of other things possible, or at least a whole lot easier, including everything from the westward expansion of the United States to long term scientific voyages to warfare, to food relief efforts.
Like there's a lot of stuff that rests on the ability to get food to people. And Canning made a lot of that a lot easier. Whether people are buying canned goods from a store or canning food themselves. Canning has also made it possible for people to keep more food and more types of food on hand for emergencies in a way that just wasn't possible before it was developed. I mean, you might have a whole lot of dried fruit and and dried beans and hardtack and, you know, some salted meat.
That's a whole different world from just being able to open a can of corn any time you want. Canned peaches.
Yeah, canned tomatoes when tomatoes are not in season. Right. It's like I mean, there's a whole other part of it about how things like air travel have made it possible to get foods that are in season some other completely different part of the world. Yeah, that's like a whole other story. I didn't write this in here, but like, if you have the means to contribute to a food bank near you, either with some canned goods or some money, there is such a huge need right now.
And like I know that's not within the means of everyone right now, but like, if you can, there's a definite way to help people in this moment that we're living in.
Yeah, I mean, that's that's to me, like the real gift of canning, at least in terms of how it impacts our modern world, is that like, there are so many ways of giving that are now available to people, you know, even you probably have it in Massachusetts. I know we have it here in our community where the mail carrier will periodically be like we're doing a canning drive. Oh, yeah. And all you got to do is put it in a little bag and hang it on your mailbox.
And that goes to people that actually need that food. So just small things like that, that seemingly insignificant in your daily life. But it's a huge impact, thanks to Nick. Up here, yeah, so I'm glad we finally moved all of that up to the top of the list in this moment where it seems particularly relevant.
I have some listener mail from Rebecca. Rebecca says, hi, Tracey. And Holly, I wanted to write to you about your recent episode about Ignacia Sanjo and the episode. You mentioned that there is a portrait of Sancerre by Thomas Gainsborough in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. I live in Ottawa. And last week the National Gallery reopened for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and I was lucky enough to be able to visit. I wasn't sure where the portrait would be or if it would even be on display.
But while walking through the gallery, I saw the portrait and immediately knew it was him. The accompanying description noted Santo's quote Zeppos, saying his, quote, nonchalance and self-confidence were considered appropriate for men of status, which I thought perfectly matched your description of him in the episode. Thanks for everything you do on the show. I've been listening for eight years and I'm always struck by how thoughtful you both are in your choice of topics, your choice of words, and how you approach difficult issues in history.
Stay healthy and sending lots of happy thoughts from Canada. All the best. Rebecca, thank you so much for this note, Rebecca. I am glad to know that it's on display right now in an Ottawa. It's it's always tricky when, you know something isn't a collection of a particular museum.
That doesn't necessarily mean that it's on display in the museum right now.
So, anyway, thanks for letting us know if you would like to write to us about this or any other podcast or at history podcast at I heart radio dot com. And there were also all over social media at MIT in history. So you'll find our Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter and Instagram and you can subscribe to our show on Apple podcast, the I Hurt radio app and anywhere else that you get podcasts.
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Nicolas Appert - History
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Nicolas Appert is more important than the inventor of sliced bread. If there's a Mount Rushmore of food, Appert surely deserves a spot. Chances are you've never heard of him.
In the season premiere of Proof, reporter Aria Bracci tells the story of Appert, considered the father of modern-day food preservation. He revolutionized the science of canning food in the early 19th century, and it's because of Appert that food can now travel the world and maintain its taste and freshness.
We can say this without hyperbole: Appert's advances in food safety helped keep people alive and helped spread food culture worldwide. And yet, Appert's name is lost in history&mdashand his single-minded obsession caused much turmoil in his personal life.
It's a fascinating&mdashand almost unbelievable&mdashstory of a man who quite literally changed the world. Listen to it in an all-new episode of Proof on your favorite podcast providers.
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Nicolas Appert - History
The first acknowledged attempt at pressure cooking occurred in 1679 when French physicist, Denis Papin, who is most noted for his work with steam power, invented the “Steam Digester” in an effort to reduce the time needed to cook foods. This airtight cooking vessel used internal steam pressure to increase the boiling point of water, and as a consequence cooked foods faster. Over a hundred years after Papin’s discovery, in 1795, the French government offered a reward of 12,000 francs for anyone who could develop a method of preserving food supplies for the French armed forces. French confectioner Nicolas Appert took on the challenge and developed a canning process of packing food in clean jars sealed with a cork and cooking them in boiling water. This preservation method was accepted, and in 1809, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte awarded Appert the prize money for inventing this basic canning process. Nicolas Appert then used his jackpot to open “The House of Appert,” the first commercial cannery in the world. These early discoveries, although crude, helped to develop the science of pressure cooking that we know today. Although pressure canning and pressure cooking are different methods, their history is so intertwined that you cannot have one without the other.
By the early twentieth century, the pressure canning process had advanced, and in the United States, National Presto Industries (then known as Northwestern Steel and Iron Works) had become a major producer of 50-gallon industrial-size “canner retorts”. The hotel and institutions industry requested a 30-gallon size, and later a 10-gallon size was developed for home use. By 1917, the United States Department of Agriculture determined that pressure canning was the only safe method of preserving low-acid foods without risk of food poisoning. In kitchens across the country, homemakers were quickly discovering the many “dinnertime” benefits of high speed cooking in their pressure canners.
Home pressure cooking, however, took a major step forward in 1938 when German Alfred Vischler introduced his “Flex-Seal Speed Cooker,” the first “saucepan-style” pressure cooker, at a New York City Trade Show. Although Vischler’s idea was on target, the product that caught the attention of homemakers was the “Presto” pressure cooker, unveiled at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Women were thrilled with this modern saucepan-style pressure cooker because it featured an easy-to-close interlocking cover, eliminating the need for awkward lug nuts and clamps. In the United States, “Presto” soon became the name synonymous with pressure cooking. The depression was over and stores could not keep up with the demand for them. By the end of 1941, pressure cookers ranked among the largest producers of housewares dollar volume in leading stores throughout the country. At that time, there were 11 companies manufacturing pressure cookers.
Then, Pearl Harbor was bombed. World War II brought a temporary end to the manufacture of pressure cookers because aluminum was needed for the war effort. Food and fuel were being rationed along with many other necessities. The War Production Board made steel available for use in manufacturing Pressure Canners for the important victory garden and canning programs. Women were marching off to work in the defense plants and the pressure cooker was gaining more recognition because it made meal planning much easier. Sadly, there weren’t enough pressure cookers to go around, so neighbors and friends began sharing their cookers to get by until the war was over. The pent up demand for pressure cookers was tremendous at the close of the war. Up to 50 or more new manufacturers were trying to cash in on this cooking sensation, many were producing cheap, substandard cookers and selling them to unsuspecting consumers.
In the 50s, the pressure cooker business moved forward with the introduction of stamped aluminum models for the budget minded homemaker and technological advances in the fabrication of stainless steel brought new lines of beautiful, long lasting stainless steel pressure cookers. But, by the late 50s, the bottom began to fall out of the pressure cooker business. The new manufacturers that emerged into this industry with inferior products and consumers that were using the cooker improperly were hurting the pressure cooker’s reputation, and its popularity began to wane.
The 60s and 70s produced a multitude of new “fast food” cooking inventions, yet cooking a quick and healthy “real meal” remained elusive. While all this change was happening, only the reputable pressure cooker companies remained in business, continuing to improve their products and selling to faithful pressure cooker customers who had long understood the benefits of pressure cooking. In the mid 70s, pressure cookers took a key step forward with the development of additional safety features and new contemporary styling. An interlocking cover, that prevented the cooker from being opened unless pressure was safely reduced, and the addition of secondary overpressure devices eased the consumer’s resistance to pressure cooking. As the 80s progressed, cookbooks with new, modern recipes were being developed and pressure cookers, once again, were beginning to entice the interest of new consumers in the marketplace.
The pressure cooker never lost favor in Europe or Asia. So, in the 90s, when the world market opened up, foreign manufacturers came roaring into the United States with many new styles and features, many in the “luxury model” category. The U.S. standard, however, continues to be the weighted valve regulator (or jiggle top). Virtually all of the products on the market today adhere to the basic safety and cooking fundamentals of pressure cooking established by independent testing organizations. In the United States, the pressure cooker’s popularity continues to quietly resurface because, no matter what style you choose, it is still the best choice for providing quick, healthy “real meals,” and so much more.
The need for safely canned food only increased in the 20th century as we entered civil and world wars. During World War I specifically, the demand for high-caloric, proteinaceous, and transportable food grew exponentially. Although glass jars were primarily used in the 19th century, the production of the tin can specifically was prioritized over glass jars due to the wartime demands of the 20th century. The tin can was cheaper to manufacture and, of course, less fragile. Home canning soared, and food preservation supplies were produced on a massive scale.
This is also the time period we learned, oftentimes at great cost, about factors that significantly affect the canning process and its safety, such as altitude and pressure, food acidity, and Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that leads to botulism. It wasn’t until 1988 that the USDA published its first guide to canning safely at home and 1993 until the FDA published its first Food Code.
Cooking under pressure
If you try to live a greener life, wasting less, cutting back on energy, you may re-discover ancient, simple domestic routines that are a source of pleasure - like walking into a sunny garden to put your laundry out to dry. Pressure cooking doesn't have quite the same feel-good levels, and yet it can save a lot of energy, and may make some people think nostalgically of Grandma's kitchen.
Of course the pressure cooker isn't ancient. It was a 17th century invention: cutting-edge technology, with the unattractive name of digester. For nearly a hundred and fifty years, it kept that name. Its inventor, Denis Papin, thought it might help the poorest people to extract nutrition from bones, but early models were far too expensive for people who really needed to save money and cooking fuel. In the 19th century, the people who were most interested in these digesters, apart from scientists, were military men who wanted a quick way of producing meals in camp, and industrial inventors looking into canning or beef extract production.
In the UK, there were digesters being sold as "kitchen furniture" from the 1830s onward, and people put the case for their "economy" in producing "nutritious" food from bones. But they would have cost a poor Victorian family a couple of days' wages and presumably were sold to more prosperous households.
It wasn't till the 20th century that steam pressure cookers appeared in a good number of ordinary home kitchens. To begin with they looked dauntingly un-domestic: hefty contraptions with gauges, valves, and heavy-duty explosion-proof construction, like the one above right. In the USA they were bought by people who did a lot of home canning. The name "pressure cooker" became established as an alternative to "steam digester", "continuous pressure cooker" etc.
Then, in the 1930s they began to look more like other cookware, in time for their popularity during World War Two. During the war the US government wanted to encourage food preserving, and supported manufacture and sales of pressure cookers to community canning centres. Across the Atlantic, there were no spare resources for manufacturing new kitchen equipment, but people who already owned pressure cookers were able to conserve fuel, and make meat scraps edible.
After the war, a few cookbooks devoted to pressure cookery were published. Another wave of recipes for pressure cooking appeared with the 1970ish interest in wholefoods. The high temperatures possible with steam pressure make it easier to cook soybeans and some other ingredients associated with wholefood/vegetarian cooking.
Pressure cookers are popular in mountainous Tibet. At high altitudes they make it possible to get water boiling.
Seeking a better way to feed his troops, Napoleon launched a contest that changed the way people eat to this day
How many cans of food do you have in your pantry? Many Americans rely on canned tuna, crushed tomatoes, beans, or chicken noodle soup for quick and easy meals. For that, you can thank a most unlikely benefactor—Napoleon Bonaparte. Or more specifically, a food-preservation contest he launched, and the Parisian confectioner who won the prize.
Before the advent of modern manufacturing methods, people preserved food however they could. Residents of cold climates froze their food desert dwellers dried theirs in the hot sun and wind. Evidence exists that people in the Middle East dried food as far back as 12,000 BC, according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The Romans dried fruit. In colder areas of the Americas, people kept food in iceboxes, which were literally carved in ice. In the late 1800s, a man named Clarence Birdseye would discover that quick freezing made for better-tasting frozen fruit and vegetables. His namesake brand is still robust today.
During the late 1700s, Napoleon wanted to find a more effective way to feed his troops. During that era, food was preserved by drying, smoking, or pickling. But those options weren’t practical for feeding a large army a variety of food, not to mention that those preservation practices offended the Little Corporal’s taste buds. The food just tasted bad. He offered 12,000 French francs to anyone who could devise a new method to preserve food for transport.
A confectioner and chef in Paris named Nicolas Appert began experimenting in 1795. Inspired by wine in corked bottles, Appert placed food inside glass jars reinforced with wire and then corked and sealed the jar with wax. The jars were wrapped in canvas and boiled until Appert deemed the food sufficiently cooked. (This was an inexact science.) Appert successfully canned fruit, vegetables, soups, marmalades, dairy products and juices.
Though Appert did not really understand why—it would be another 50 or so years before Louis Pasteur proved that heat killed the bacteria—his method was effective. He thought it was exposure to air that was spoiling food, and his efforts were to remove it. It was a common thought at the time. Meat was “preserved” by being coated in a layer of fat, to keep it from the evils of air.
Nevertheless, Appert’s boiling of the bottles allowed the heat to kill the offensive organisms, and as the jars cooled, they became vacuum-sealed, preventing bacteria from getting in.
Portrait of Nicolas Appert, inventor of food canning in 1795, tiré de Les Artisans illustres de Foucaud, anonymous woodcut, circa 1841
Appert presented bottled fruits and vegetables at the 1806 Paris food expo, the Exposition des produits de l’industrie francaise. Judges were not impressed. He won no awards.
The press, however, recognized a revolution in the bottle. “In each bottle, and at small expense, is a glorious sweetness that recalls the month of May in the depths of winter,” wrote Alexandre Grimod de la Reynière, according to the Independent.
The French Navy agreed to test a variety of his products, including a wide range of meat, vegetables, fruit, and milk.
Historical words that we should bring back
Having experimented for 15 years, Nicolas Appert at last formally submitted his invention to the French government in 1810, which agreed to award him the 12,000 francs, as long as he made his process public.
And so later that year Appert published The Art of Preserving Animal and Vegetable Substances, the first cookbook of its kind on modern food preservation. In the world of culinary art, he is known as “the father of canning.”
Napoleon’s Retreat from Moscow
Appert patented his invention and used the money from his prize to build the first commercial food-preservation factory, the House of Appert, in Masay, outside Paris. It remained in operation for more than 100 years, from 1812 to 1933.
A British merchant called Peter Durand patented a tin can in England in 1810, saying he’d learned of the practice of canning from a “friend abroad.” Durand in turn sold the rights to Bryan Donkin and John Hall, who opened the first commercial cannery. By 1813, the two were supplying the British Army with canned food.
The cans were a hassle to open, however, requiring a hammer and chisel, as the can opener wouldn’t be invented for another 40 years by Robert Yeates in 1855, presumably because he (or his wife) was tired of whacking open cans.
In the United States, Gail Borden used the technology to produce the first canned condensed milk in 1856, a product that is still in supermarkets today.
Captain Robert Falcon Scott, who brought tins of syrup on his expedition in 1910 to the South Pole, wrote to the manufacturers: “Your Golden Syrup has been in daily use and is a most desirous addition to necessary food for a polar expedition.” Sadly, the syrup didn’t save him he perished from malnutrition six months later.
Canned food started showing up in home kitchens in the early 1900s, when a man named Henry Heinz launched a variety of more appealing products along with a marketing campaign selling tins as a quick and convenient way to get food on the dinner table.
“The tin can’s move from the battlefield to the kitchen was a revolution,” Andrew F.0 Smith, the author of Souper Tomatoes: The Story of America’s Favorite Food told the Independent. “Not only did it mean that for the first time, the working classes had access to a wide variety of nutritious foods, it actually changed the dynamic of family life itself.”
In France, where food is practically worshiped, Nicolas Appert is seen as a minor hero. There are 72 streets named after him a high school bears his name the government issued a commemorative stamp in 1955 and in 2010, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of his invention, the entire year was dedicated to him. Though most foodies prefer fresh produce today, presumably some canned food was served.