Did you know February is Canned Food Month? We love Canned Food Month because canning food is all about storing food so that it lasts a long time. Though the idea of canned food has been around for centuries now, canning food & storing foods can sometimes be, well, uncanny! Mysterious questions abound like, ‘How long can canned food keep before it spoils?' Where are the best places to store canned food? ‘Are canned foods as healthy to eat as fresh foods?' And ‘Who invented canning and how did they do it?" Well, read on, and canned foods will no longer be shrouded in mystery.
- Who invented canning?
Napoleon is considered the grandfather of this ingenious food storing technique. In 1795, Napoleon offered 12,000 francs to anyone who could help prevent military food supplies from spoiling. He later presented the prize to Chef Nicholas Appert, who invented the process of canning by packing meat and poultry into glass bottles, corking them, and submerging them in boiling water. Over two hundred years later, this process continues to store, preserve and provide food for millions all around the world.
- The shelf-life of canned goods
Canned foods are a staple among millions of households primarily because of their long shelf-life. In fact, canned foods found in 100-year-old shipwrecks were found to be safe to eat! Despite the long shelf-life of canned goods, it's always best to use them by their recommended "use-by" date (usually a sticker or stamp on the can) to prevent degradation in food quality. You can organize your canned food on a Lazy Susan, or a storage rack to keep track of your newer vs. older canned goods.
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- Nutritious and delicious.
According to research, canned foods are nutritionally similar to cooked fresh foods. In some cases, canned foods can actually yield higher amounts of essential nutrients than their fresh or frozen counterparts due to the canning process. The heating process used in canning can enhance the degree to which some naturally occurring, disease-fighting compounds are absorbed into the body.
- Can't handle the heat.
Although canned goods are processed at high temperatures to preserve their contents, storing them at temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit can be harmful. Once the storage temperature rises, the risk of food spoilage jumps sharply. In addition, the nutrients and vitamins of its contents can be lost if stored above 75 degrees for a long period. For canned goods stored in glass jars, light can also cause nutrient losses in food. Make sure you are storing your canned foods in pantries and cabinets at room temperatures and away from direct sunlight to prevent spoilage.
- Last in, first out.
When storing and using your canned goods, follow the LIFO policy by using all of your older canned goods first before using the ones with later "use-by" dates. Start by arranging cans by their "use-by" dates by positioning the goods with later dates in the back of your pantry and cans with newer "use-by" dates in the front. If you see any cans with expiration dates coming up, implement them into this week's menu. Rotate your cans a few times each year to update the LIFO policy.
- Canning Foods at Home.
Although canning was invented in 1795, it did not become popular until the mid-nineteenth century during the Civil War. Since then, canned goods have remained a popular staple of the American household. In fact, many people continue to can foods such as sauces, jams, and soups at home. As discussed in our "10 Creative Ways to Upcycle Mason Jars" post, mason jars are a great way to store food. The National Center for Home Food Preservation provides tips and recommendations on how you can continue the canning tradition. Happy Canning!