Canned Goods

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Grocer information on Canned goods – sources, uses, and definitions

CANNED GOODS. The preservation of foods by sterilization and hermetical sealing is not a new process, but its present importance as an industry is of comparatively recent origin.

The list of articles which are preserved by canning is a long one, and includes a great variety of fish, meats, fruits, vegetables, poultry, soups, etc.-yet the industry is susceptible to still greater development. Current opinion in this country credits the United States with being the foremost exponent of canned goods and it is true that in several items, such as salmon, tomatoes, corn, etc., the total output is considerably greater than that of all other parts of the world combined, but in diversity of articles we have much to learn from Europe. We are all acquainted with some of the special French lines, but it would surprise the average reader to see the variety of the outputs of other continental nations. Holland, for instance, has canneries which put up from two to several hundred different items. The list includes nearly every possible vegetable, in first and second qualities, separate and mixed-as for example, several varieties of peas, separate, and combinations of "green peas and spring carrots," etc., numerous combinations of vegetables and meat-as, "beef and onions," "green peas and veal," "chestnuts and sausages," "spinach and ham," etc.; and all kinds of meat delicacies, poultry, game, soups, sauces, fruits, etc. The most numerous items are vegetables, meats and mixed vegetables, and meat.

Many of the canned articles used in Europe, but at present unknown in this country, are sure to become popular here in course of time if canning interests foster public confidence by rigid inspection of their outputs and unremitting vigilance to see that irresponsible or unscrupulous concerns do not foist undesirable goods on the market. Canned goods consisting of sound foods, put up with proper care and handled thereafter with reasonable precautions, are just as wholesome and nutritious as the fresh articles.

To foster the trade in canned goods, which offer large future possibilities for him, the retailer should use every possible care to see that a customer receives nothing that is open to suspicion as to the quality, nor objection as to the quantity, of the edible contents of the can. A can of tomatoes, for example, should contain chiefly tomato flesh-it should not reveal on opening a superabundance of watery juice.

The present method of canning is the process invented by a Frenchman named Francois Appert a little more than a hundred years ago, improved in detail and amplified in use by modern mechanical devices and equipment. The two principal points to be achieved are (1) the exclusion of all air from the can by hermetical sealing and (2) the destruction of all micro-organisms by sterilization-cooking the can at high temperature and high pressure. The details of the process vary with different foods and cannery methods. Some items are placed in the cans in a raw condition, others are first partially cooked. Some undergo two cookings in the can, being "vented" between cookings-i. e., the tops are pierced to allow the steam to escape, the holes being soldered over immediately thereafter. Many modern canneries achieve the same purpose by means of a steam-heated "exhaust box" which extracts part of the air in the filled cans before they are sent to the capping machines.

If only good grades of bright tin plate are used, the sterilization has been complete, and the can is air-tight, the food contents, whether meats, vegetables or fruit, will remain good and wholesome for an almost indefinite length of time.

Any imperfection in the can or damage to it, which admits even the smallest amount of air, will result in fermentation and decomposition and render the contents unfit for food, so care should be exercised in the handling of all canned goods. A similar result will ensue from imperfect sterilization-i. e., if the heat employed was not sufficient to sterilize every portion of the contents. Fermentation of any kind will tend to make the can bulge more or less. Consequently, if there is the slightest swelling of the can, either top, bottom or sides, send it back-never on any account sell or use such a can as it may be poisonous enough to kill. All canned goods are returnable for this cause, being guaranteed by the packer to the jobber and the jobber to the retailer.

The "swelling" is a reasonably sure test for all unopened canned goods except corn-which may be found sour inside a can in apparently normal condition.

The reason that jams and other sweet preserves maintain their wholesomeness without such precautions as required for the canning of meats, vegetables and unsweetened fruits, is that heavy syrup is not favorable to the growth of yeast, etc.

The "biggest sellers" in canned goods in the United States to-day are in fish-salmon (a long way in the lead) and sardines; in fruit-peaches; in vegetables-tomatoes, corn and peas, twice as many cans of tomatoes being sold as of corn and five times as many as of peas.

Grocers should never sell a can of any meat or fish in the summer without advising the buyer to keep it on ice for a while before opening it. Meats, salmon, lobster, crabs and shrimps are disgusting to many people when taken out in a flabby and warm condition, but the simple precaution mentioned will give the fresh, firm appearance desired.

The last point in the use of canned goods-and a very important one-is the necessity of every consumer understanding that, as soon as a can is opened, all of the contents must be taken out and put in a china, glass, earthenware or similar receptacle, dish or plate-and covered, if held over after a meal. The very best and purest canned meats and fish are liable to generate poisonous ptomaines, if left standing in the can.

It may be added that ptomaine poison is not a special poison from canned goods only-it may be, and often is, generated in various items of home-cooked food if unduly exposed, or left long enough to permit decay to set in.

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