Pineapple slices, kidney beans, and tuna – the list of food you can buy in cans seems to be endless. Add a bit of corn to your favourite salad or treat yourself with some fruity peaches, both are as easy as opening a can and heating up the food – if that’s even necessary. So, in case you didn’t know already: canned food is extremely handy. But have you ever thought about how the food finds its way into the can? Probably not. There are several steps for the produce to take until it can peacefully settle in its final destination. So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready for the canning process…
Step 1: Heading for the Can
Since there is nearly no food that cannot be put into a can, there are plenty of sources from which the ingredients are harvested and collected. Whether we talk about fruits and vegetables from farms, seafood from fisheries or milk from dairies, they all need to be transported as quickly as possible to the canning factory. The early steps of the canning process are very important. To ensure that freshness and taste can be maintained until the actual production starts, canning facilities are located within a few kilometres of the point of harvest.
Step 2: Working on the Food
You think canned food, no matter what size or shape, would already be handy enough? Nah. Luckily, most of the food has already been prepared to make the consumption as easy as possible. This involves cleaning, peeling, dicing, chopping and weighing the ingredients, leaving you with almost no more work to do. Isn’t it fantastic that you can choose whatever you need, whether it be peeled, diced or pureed tomatoes? Thanks to automatic factory processes, the cans contain exactly the perfect amount of your desired food.
Step 3: Keeping it Fresh
For me personally, the most exciting feature of a can is its resistance to exterior influences. Because of the material and its airtight seal, the ingredients are perfectly preserved. This keeps the nutrients safe and allows canned food to travel long times and distances without losing any of its freshness or taste. Then, high-pressure steam kettles heat the sealed food cans to temperatures above 100°C. This process is called ‘sterilisation’ and helps destroying all microorganisms, such as bacteria, moulds or yeasts, which might still exist in the food. Finally, the cans are cooled in cold water or air.
Step 4: Filling the Shelfs
So far, so good. But at this step of production all cans look exactly the same, disregarding differences in size and shape. And I bet you’ve already figured out that a can needs a label. Labelling is the last step of production before the cans leave the factory. Afterwards, the cans are loaded onto transport vehicles and delivered to supermarkets. Typically, canning provides a shelf life up to five years. However, in 1974, samples of canned food from the wreck of the ‘Bertrand’ turned out to be still safe to eat – and the steamship had sunk almost 90 years before! So no need to worry about storing some canned food for a long time. Those baked beans got your back, when midnight hunger is haunting you!
Is this how you imagined the canning process? What is your favourite canned food? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.