Preserving food has been a challenge of mankind since the very beginning. They couldn't just store their mastodon in an emergency food bucket.
Ever since the first people began roaming the planet, the problem of food and water has always been our first and foremost concern.
Right from the very moment of harvest, food begins to break down which causes us as people a major issue.
Heat, cold, time and moisture are all enemies of food and its lifespan.
Ancient food preservation enabled our ancestors to settle and live in one place, forming a community.
They no longer had to consume the kill or harvest immediately, but could preserve some for later use.
Each culture preserved their local food sources using the same basic methods of food preservation. In other words, it allowed civilization as we know it to form by being able to preserve their best survival foods.
Since the era of the ancient Egyptians, Mayans and Greeks, the history of food preservation has seen advancements in the technology and techniques that have helped us devise the processes that we use today.
The earliest evidence suggests that as early as 12,000 B.C. Middle Eastern and Oriental cultures began to dry foods with the sun to preserve them. Being able to set aside a 72-hour kit made of dehydrated foods was a literal life saver.
Later civilizations left even more verification with the materials and tools left behind that were used to dry fish and other wild game.
This is a pretty obvious method for those cultures that have the climate to support it.
It was quickly picked up by those cultures living in the more Northern regions of the world to take advantage of low temperatures.
Other methods started to take for by using cool streams, cellars and caves.
It wasn’t until the 1800’s that America started to use icehouses to keep food fresh, and then mechanical refrigeration was quickly put to use as iceboxes or coolers.
It has been said that fermentation was probably more discovered then invented; I think I have to agree.
No doubt that the first beer was discovered when a few grains of barley were left in the rain.
Opportunistic microorganisms fermented the starch-derived sugars into alcohols.
So too can be said about fruits fermented into wine, cabbage into Kim chi or sauerkraut, and so on.
The process of using water, time and various plants to create a new food source and one that can last a very long time is an impressive find by the ancient civilizations.
Fermentation was a valuable method for creating an ancient survival food kit.
It not only could preserve foods, but it also created more nutritious foods and was used to create more palatable foods from less than desirable ingredients.
Microorganisms responsible for fermentations can produce vitamins as they ferment. This produces a more nutritious end product from the ingredients.
Pickling may have started when people used to put things in beer and wine to preserve it, but containers had to be made of stoneware or glass, since the vinegar would dissolve the metal from pots.
This spawned a spectacular increase in food preservation in the sixteenth century owing to the arrival in Europe of new foods.
Ketchup was an oriental fish brine that traveled the spice route to Europe and eventually to America where someone finally added sugar to it.
Spices were added to these pickling sauces to make clever recipes.
Soon chutneys, relishes, piccalillis, mustards, and ketchups were commonplace. Worcester sauce was an accident from a forgotten barrel of special relish.
It aged for many years in the basement of the Lea and Perrins Chemist shop.
Curing actually has it roots in dehydration. The earliest forms used various types of raw salts to help dry foods.
It was found in the 1800’s that some salts gave the meat a red color instead of the unappetizing grey, which made it more acceptable and sought out to the masses.
Canning is one of the newest forms of food preservation starting up in the 1790’s by a Frenchman Nicholas Appert.
Canning is the process in which foods are placed in jars or cans and heated to a temperature that destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes.
This heating and later cooling forms a vacuum seal. The vacuum seal prevents other microorganisms from recontamination the food within the jar or can.
The interesting thing is that although they had the process, they did not fully understand why it worked. It was thought that the exclusion of air was responsible for the preservations.
It was not until 1864 when Louis Pasteur discovered the relationship between microorganisms and food spoilage did it become clearer.
We know that drying food was one of the earliest forms of food dehydration, but what about modern dehydration machines?
Those started out very basically again in France in the late 1700’s over the next 100 years improvements were made but it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that major strides were developed.
World War 1 and 2 helped advance the technology significantly because of the increased demand of food for the troops on all sides.
Dehydrated food has about 1/15th the bulk of the original product; you can easily see the benefits.
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It was actually created to send blood from the US to the European theater for medical treatment of wounded soldiers.
Because the blood would go bad crossing the Atlantic and Europe without refrigeration the freeze-drying process was developed.
Shortly thereafter, the freeze-dry process was applied to penicillin and bone.
Since that time, freeze-drying has been used as a preservation or processing technique for a wide variety of products including food!
Now freeze dried food is considered the best way to preserve food and be ready for any emergency situation, ensuring a freeze dried food shelf life that allows us to create things like an emergency food supply with a 25 year shelf life.
These advances unlocked ability to
start prepping for emergencies and put together our own life saving advances like our
bug out bag necessities and knowing about the
benefits and dangers of
bugging in. Now a good food storage plan can protect you from those same emergencies our ancestors faced, and even new, modern emergencies like
preparing for hyperinflation or
grocery store shortages.
Throughout history, people have continuously found innovative ways to store food and combat spoilage. These advancements not only increase the shelf life of our food but also contribute to our ability to handle emergencies effectively.
For instance, the advent of vacuum sealing, a relatively modern technique, has revolutionized the way we store food. By removing air from the container, it prevents bacteria growth and keeps food fresh for longer. Vacuum sealing can be combined with other preservation methods like freezing or refrigeration, creating a potent and effective method of food preservation.
The history of food preservation is as long as the history of humanity itself.
From the ancient methods of drying and fermenting, to more modern techniques like canning, dehydration, and freeze drying, each advance has helped us make significant strides in food storage. The processes we've developed over centuries now allow us to prepare and store emergency food supplies that can last for years, providing us with a sense of security and preparedness.
From the necessity to store a mastodon catch in prehistoric times to the need for long-lasting emergency food supplies today, the history of food preservation is a testament to human ingenuity and adaptability. Whether it's preparing for natural disasters, economic downturns, or other unforeseen circumstances, it's clear that food preservation and storage remain as vital today as they were thousands of years ago.
And as we move forward, we can expect to see new technologies and techniques continue to emerge in the field of food preservation. One such promising technology is High Pressure Processing (HPP), which uses high pressure instead of heat to kill bacteria and other pathogens in food. This method has been shown to effectively extend the shelf life of certain foods without the need for preservatives or other additives.
In essence, the story of food preservation is an ongoing one, continually evolving and adapting to meet our needs. At Valley Food Storage, we're proud to be part of this rich history, and we're dedicated to providing the highest quality emergency food supplies to help you and your family stay prepared, no matter what the future holds.