From Caveman to Tin Man: Preserving Food in Time

It’s astonishing how food preservation has been integrated in every culture and underwent several changes. During the ancient times when food processors and additives were still unavailable, man had to rely on nature to preserve food. Back then, freezing meat on ice and drying food under the sun were the most common ways to avoid food spoilage.

Each culture has its own methods of preserving method. During the prehistoric times, these methods were evidently present, but it was Nicolas Appert who revolutionized the process in the early 1800s.

The evolution of preserving food from using nature to vacuum sealing cans show the ingenuity of man and his love for food.

Taste of the Past: Dried and Frozen

The sun and wind were used in ancient times to dry food naturally. Researchers say that as early as 12,000 B.C., oriental cultures have shown evidence of actively drying food. In the Middle Ages, “still houses” were created to dry fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Here, fire was used to create heat to preserve the goods by drying and smoking.

Areas that had freezing temperatures during some parts of the year made use of this climate to preserve their supply. Cellars, caves, and cool streams with less than freezing temperatures were also used to prolong storage life.

The Appeal of Fermented Food

The discovery of fermentation has not only provided another way of preserving, but also creating food. Opportunistic microorganisms ferment starch and turn it into alcohol; this turned a few grains of barley into beer and fruits into wine.

Sour and Salty: Pickled and Cured

Pickling uses vinegar and other acid to preserve food, and this may have began when food was submerged in wine or beer to preserve it.  In the food industry, safety practices in pickling must be strictly followed. says that careful consideration should be exercised to keep consumers safe from food-borne illness.

The Can Innovation

This newest food preservation method requires placing the contents in jars or cans while being heated in high temperature to destroy microorganisms and inactivate enzymes. This also forms a vacuum seal to prevent food recontamination.

The different methods of preserving food do not only avoid spoiling, but also create new delicacies. As different ears have its own food preservation method, tasting different preserved dishes feels like traveling through time.