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Canning is a method of preserving food in which the food contents are processed and sealed in an airtight container. Canning provides a typical shelf life ranging from one to five years, although under specific circumstances a freeze-dried canned product can last as long as 30 years in an edible state. The process was first developed as a French military discovery by Nicolas Appert in 1810. The packaging prevents microorganisms from entering and proliferating inside.

How canned food was made, a picture from Albert Seigneurie's Grocery Encyclopedia (1898)To prevent the food from being spoiled before and during containment, a number of methods are used: pasteurization, boiling (and other applications of high temperature over a period of time), refrigeration, freezing, drying, vacuum treatment, antimicrobial agents that are natural to the recipe of the foods being preserved, a sufficient dose of ionizing radiation, submersion in a strong saline solution, acid, base, osmotically extreme (for example very sugary) or other microbe-challenging environments.

Other than sterilization, no method is perfectly dependable as a preservative. For example, the microorganism Clostridium botulinum (which causes botulism), can only be eliminated at temperatures above the boiling point.

From a public safety point of view, foods with low acidity (a pH more than 4.6) need sterilization under high temperature (116-130 C). To achieve temperatures above the boiling point requires the use of a pressure canner.

Foods that must be pressure canned include most vegetables, meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products. The only foods that may be safely canned in an ordinary boiling water bath are highly acidic ones with a pH below 4.6, such as fruits, pickled vegetables, or other foods to which acidic additives have been added.

  • History and development of canning
  • Double seams
    • Seaming
    • First operation
    • Second operation
    • Seamer setup and quality assurance
    • Nutrition value
  • Potential hazards
    • Migration of can components
    • Salt content
    • Botulism
  • Canning and The Recession
  • See also
    • Famous canned foods

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