Vacuum packaging is one of the most widely used forms of food storage today. However, vacuum packing was only invented in the 1940s. So, how did people go about protecting their food before then.

Obviously, there were ways of preserving food before using a vacuum sealing machine was even thought of. Most of these methods, such as freezing, are still in use today but in more advanced forms. Let’s take a look at this in more detail.

Food drying

Food drying is one of the oldest means of preserving food in existence. For instance, people in the Middle East and the Far East are known to have used sun drying as a food preservative as far back as 12,000 BCE. The basic premise behind this type of food preservation is that removing moisture helps to reduce enzyme activity and therefore restricts the growth of bacteria.

As the diet of people has become more varied, so food drying techniques have become more advanced. However, drying food is still a means of preservation to this day.

Food Dehydration

Food dehydration works to a similar ethos as food drying, in that it involves the removal of moisture from food products. However, food dehydration is a more recent addition to the food preservation landscape. The development of hot air dehydration happened in France in 1795. This type of food preservation rose in popularity during the 1940s, when the Second World War was at its height.

Today, food dehydration is more sophisticated. Many of the machines used come complete with timers and automatic shut-off.

Freezing

Freezing is a method of food preservation that we are all familiar with. What may be surprising to many is that it’s not a new concept. As far back as prehistoric times, people stored food in freezing caves. However, that system was only practical where freezing temperatures existed. Of course, the practice of freezing has come a long way since then.

During the 18th century, Clarence Birdseye discovered that using low temperatures could help to preserve meat and vegetables. It was as a result of this discovery that he created the quick freeze process. As the century progressed, so the use of freezing on a large scale came into force. It’s important to note that freezing only prevents pathogens from multiplying while the food is frozen. Once food thaws, microbes are revived and grow quickly.

Canning

During the canning process, food is placed into cans or jars and is then heated in order to kill microbes which are present and make enzymes inactive. Canning was first invented by Nicolas Appert, in France. The theory which he developed was first put into practice in 1806 when food was canned for the French army. The practice of canning was continued and extended by Peter Durand who created the first tin cans during the early 1800s.

The principles which were already being used were given more weight in 1864. This was when Louis Pasteur first discovered the relationship between microbes and the spoilage of food.

Commercial canning is still in use today, as anyone who buys food from a supermarket will know. One of the main drawbacks of canning food is that additives are used during the process. However, it’s still a widely used means of preserving food across the globe.

Into the modern day with vacuum sealing

As you can see, many of the food preservation techniques that are used today have their origins way back in history. Even vacuum packing has been used for several decades, but it’s more modern than many other preservation techniques.

Vacuum packing works by removing the air from packaging after food products have been placed within it. It can help to preserve food for days, weeks or even months depending on the product that is involved.

In summary

Food preservation has been a concern of the human race for many thousands of years. From the early days of prehistoric man keeping food in frozen caves, people have wanted to ensure that food stays fresh for as long as possible.

Many different techniques have been developed in order to help this happen. These techniques include, drying, dehydration, freezing and canning. In relatively recent times, vacuum packing has been added to the list of food preservation techniques and has become a popular method of extending the shelf life of food products and keeping them in a safe and edible condition for longer.