Food preservation is an important skill to master in the process of reducing food wastage, especially around Christmas feasts. It’s about pickling, pantries and puddings – some Christmas puddings can last a whole two years after they’re made due to their high alcohol and sugar contents. In this article, we’ll look at the history of food preservation and how you should preserve your favourite Christmas dishes to prevent them from becoming the dog’s dinner.
Food Preservation through the Ages
Successfully preserving your food won’t guarantee you a shot at ruling the world, but having a healthy reserve could give an army a massive edge over its enemy, espeically in the ancient world. The Egyptian and Roman civilizations would pickle or ferment foods for their people. Another option was to dry and salt food, such as meat, in order to make it last a bit longer. Over 3000 years later, we in the twenty-first century still enjoy a bit of pickled garlic and cured ham.
In the nineteenth century, French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte realised the difference that good food resources could have on battles; healthy and well-fed troops fought with greater success than poorly nourished ones. Following this revelation, Napoleon sank a great deal of money into food preservation sciences. This lead to the discovery that food stays edible and preserved for longer when kept in an airtight container.
Essentially, Napoleon Bonaparte funded the science behind modern Tupperware.
It wasn’t for another half-century that Louis Pasteur came forward with his hypothesis that the presence of microorganisms in the air increased the rate at which food decays, which led to the prevalence of tinned food.
Knowing the effects that microorganisms have on food has influenced contemporary food preservation tactics. Now, instead of drying food naturally in the sun as the ancient Egyptians once did, we accelerate the process by dehydrating food, which is much more efficient. As well as using air-tight containers, we also use food preservation gases such as nitrogen to keep microorganisms from growing on our food. We know that microorganisms like bacteria grow more quickly in warm conditions, which is also why we use fridges to keep food cold.
Contemporary Food Preservation
Nitrogen cylinders are used in industrial food preservation. Nitrogen gas modifies the atmosphere of the packaging, preventing microorganisms from coming into contact with the food. Bacteria and mould make food inedible, but they need oxygen to develop. By changing the atmosphere in the packaging from oxygen to nitrogen, bad bacteria can no longer grow.
Preserving your Food this Christmas
At Christmas, our food supplies soar. Houses across the country hoard food like never before just for that big day. This means that you’re likely to be left with a lot of leftovers, so it’s important to know how to make them last. Other than saving your food for leftovers, you may be interested in what kinds of food you can prepare in advance so that you spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day relaxed and confident about your cooking time.
Gravy can be frozen so you can make it in advance. A lot of people will be shaking their heads and saying that Christmas gravy needs the precious turkey juices to be proper Christmas gravy, but don’t worry, because you can have your cake and eat it, too. Simply defrost the gravy when you are cooking the turkey, and tip the turkey juices into your pre-made gravy before serving.
You can also make stuffing in advance. You can mix it and freeze it, or you can mix it, cook it and then freeze it so you only have to warm it up on the big day. Don’t wait to start your stuffing this Christmas, get it out of the way so you don’t have to worry about it while your kids are opening their presents.
Like gravy, bread sauce also freezes well. You can cook most sauces way in advance and freeze them.
Mix the batter, cook the puddings and stick them in the freezer. They’ll only need 5-10 minutes in the oven on the big day to heat up.
Christmas pudding made with dried fruit and alcohol can last for years. Get one in the sales after this Christmas and you’ll be well prepared for next year. Also, if you’ve eaten far too much of your savouries and can’t possibly manage a Christmas pud’, you don’t have to worry about it going off for quite a long time.
The main event lasts only 3-4 days after cooking, so get to making those turkey sandwiches once your Christmas is over.
If you’re in the food preservation business and need more gas, we are the eco-friendly gas cylinder suppliers that you’ve been looking for. When managing food preservation at home remember to plan your cooking in advance by understanding the science behind food decay. Alternatively, if you’re planning an adventurous Christmas BBQ this year, you can check out our Top Tips for a Winter Barbecue.