Preserving food is a normal household thing. Almost everyone has a refrigerator in the house to store food and to save it from getting spoiled. The need to preserve food is not new, and it has been there since humans existed. But earlier, the need was less as people never stored food with them, as much as we do today. They used to hunt for the food in the required amount. But slowly, as humans started living in groups and started becoming agrarian, they felt the need of storing and preserving food grains.
The drastic changes and advancement in food preservation started taking place from 18th century. The progress of science in 18th and 19th century heavily influenced the food preservation methods and processes.
During the 18th century, drying, curing, sugaring, pickling, etc., were some of the most common methods of preserving food, but, when the population and food quantity started increasing, people needed something more than natural food preservatives. And this is the time, a not so trained scientist known as Nicolas Appert came up with a new method. He designed a new process to preserve food, which involved cooking the food and then sealing them inside sterile bottles or cans. This process is today known as canning. This process was introduced to America by William Underwood after the civil war was over. Later, in 1858, John L. Mason designed a canning jar with a rubber gasket and metal cap, which were produced on a mass scale.
The problem of excluding air out of the container was later solved by Louise Pasteur. He studies that particles in the air can also contaminate or spoil the food. After few years of studies and experiments he designed a swan neck flask to exclude air from the preservation containers. Using his unique design, he boiled yeast soups in airless flasks and observed no contaminants. Later on he conducted many experiments with various food products, especially liquids, such as, milk, beer, wine, etc. He discovered that heating foods on high temperature kills microbes and unwanted flavors. This process is today known as pasteurization. This discovery set the road for further research in microbial processes.
The process of freezing was discovered by Clarence Birdseye at his home in Canada. He stored some foods in ice and realized that they were fresh and no change in the flavor or quality occurred. Then soon he designed a method for freezing foods. He soaked metal plates in calcium chloride brine and made them cold. The food was stored between these cool plates. It was considered as one of the healthiest ways to preserve food. In 1930, the first Birdseye freezer was launched in Massachusetts. He designed various freezers for domestic as well as commercial utilization.
One interesting fact one should know is that all the methods have evolved and evaluated with time for food safety and safer food consumption. Based on the old principles, a lot of new preservation and food packaging methods have been designed, such as, vacuum packing, jellying, pulsed electric field processing, and high pressure food preservation. Food preservation methods changed the way people ate and lived. It brought the whole new branch of foods in the food industry and the society at large.