Posts Tagged Tin cans
Canning jars are a cultural icon. They represent more than survival; they represent freshness and wholesomeness. Whatever food is stored within, the sight of a canning jar awakens the senses as well as memories.
They immediately bring to mind the aroma and flavor of their contents. If we are involved in the canning process, they connect us with this experience and everything it entails: Fulfilling time spent in the kitchen transforming the harvest into a display of color and a reserve of nourishment for survival, or for mere enjoyment; memories of mothers and grandmothers spending entire afternoons in the kitchen chatting and cooperating to create sustenance for the family and passing this skill down to newer generations.
With all that the canning jar means to us emotionally and historically, why would we choose to preserve foods in tin cans? It is a matter of choice, circumstances, and purpose. Here is a rule of thumb: Use the canning jars for moderate-term preserving of foods you will consume in the course of the year, little by little. Opt for tin cans for long-term, survival-based preserving. Also, the canning jar is re-usable, with a new lid and seal band. This is convenient for subsequent canning projects throughout the year, for an ongoing and frequently renewed supply. While it is very much recyclable, the tin can is not used repeatedly for canning. Its versatility lends itself to many other uses, however.
Survivalists, then, opt for the tin can. It is ideal for long-term food storage. Besides being non-permeable to gas and vapors (changing atmospheric conditions), and difficult for rodents to break through, unlike glass jars, tin cans are exceptionally well-suited to rough handling and transportation.
Of course, different methods demand different equipment. If you have never used a can sealer (also called can seamer), you may wonder, “How does it do that?”
First of all, if you do any canning, you already know how simple it is. And if you think about it, you have probably been using the same equipment for years, if not decades. That is because this sort of equipment is built to last. I’ve pointed this out in previous articles, but notice the design and style of a can sealer. It seems to come from another era, and it does. It looks solid, and it is. And it works, well, seamlessly! Here’s how:
A can sealer creates a seal by crimping. What this means, in effect, is that it “deforms” the edge of a metal plate that serves as the lid. It does this by compressing it around the mouth of the can while the device turns and presses down on the metal plate.
As with canning jars, once filled and sealed the tin cans are processed with heat. A pressure canner is used in this case. Processing temperature, time and specifications vary depending on the nature of the foods within the cans and also depending on the pressure canner’s manufacturer’s recommendations. It is that simple.
A final rule of thumb (I am making this one up, but I think you will agree): Choose canning jars for foods you will see daily in your pantry and use on a regular basis throughout the year. Why? Because the visual cues you get from those irresistible jars will make your heart leap with joy every time you catch a glimpse. Choose tin cans for your canning projects that are intended for “rainy days.” There, all your bases covered. Food for the senses and food for a sense of security.
More on Canning
More on Can Sealers
One of the items featured in Granny’s Choice, this week, is the All American Can Sealer. While preparing the label for the special offer, I rediscovered the machine with fresh eyes.
Look at it. What beautiful engineering! It’s a museum piece, something people from all over the world might see on display hundreds of years from now, and there is a unique characteristic to this piece of equipment that is also found in many farming and kitchen devices: it is timeless. In many respects, its appearance has changed very little over the past two centuries and may very well remain the same for the next two.
Sure, we may change how we manufacture the components we use in the fabrication of can sealers, but the design and mechanics perform the desired task with precision and perfection, so why change something that works? This is not an assembly line device. It is shaped and configured to serve the needs of people like you and me who wish to preserve the harvest on their own terms.
There is a point, it seems, where we push technology to such ends that new products we create have lost the “presence” of their predecessors. By this I mean that we sometimes put function and modern style at the center of design, creating tools and appliances that lack elegance; that curve, shape or stature that reflects history.
History is close to the land. Perhaps it cannot be any other way. I think it is for this reason that it is mostly the tools we use in the process of feeding ourselves that tend to retain their roots in design. I had a friend who used to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
We know a lot more now about food preservation than we did back when Napoleon offered a prize to anyone who could come up with a way to preserve food for his troops. As we have seen in a previous article, a French confectioner by the name of Nicolas Appert successfully devised a means to improve food preservation when he discovered that heating it to high temperatures inside sealed glass jars stopped it from spoiling.
It was later discovered that this process worked not only in glass jars, but also when tinned iron canisters were used. The combination of these materials provided distinct advantages: They were lighter and the risk of breakage was greatly reduced. Iron could not be used on its own since it rusts. The tin coating resolved this issue. Interestingly, no one quite understood why the use of heat could preserve food, but the consequences were far from negligible for soldiers and sea faring explorers.
The first cans were made by hand by a tinsmith who truly could only manufacture about ten cans a day. These were large and heavy and required a hammer and chisel for opening. Gradually, the production of cans became mechanized.
The first automated production lines could produce about six cans an hour. However, the American Can Company, founded in 1901, produced 90% of United States tin cans. By the 1920′s, canned food began to enter the public market and to be accepted as part of everyday food choices. At the same time, it gradually lost its association with the military image. Today, production lines can put out over 1,500 cans a minute.
Back in our kitchens, we re-enact a process that began centuries ago every time we stir soup with a wooden spoon, turn the handle of the sauce maker or activate the lever of a can sealer. We may not think about this at the time, but I suspect there is some little corner of our cellular memory that remembers. Preserving tradition is an act that is revived through action. It is a ritual of sorts. Repeating similar motions while using equipment that retains timeless design qualities, such as the can sealer, for example, connects us to our roots.