In 1810, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, proclaiming that “an army moves on its stomach,” was desperate to find a means of supplying preserved food to his troops. His men became sick and many died from scurvy and other diseases related to the lack of essential nutrients in their diet. Because they were far from any source of fresh food on their long marches, all they could carry with them were salted meats.
We know now that foods can be preserved only if the microorganisms that cause spoilage are destroyed or growth is controlled; drying, dehydrating, salting, smoking, irradiating, heating, freezing, and using chemical preservatives.
But this was 1810 and Napoleon was desperate! He offered a reward equal to $250.000. in today’s money to anyone who could develop a method for preserving food. After 14 years of trial and error, French pastry chef Nicolas-Francois Appert, finally discovered a method that worked. Applying the principles of the pressure cooker or “steam digester” a 17th century marvel by French inventor Denis Papin, Appert developed the 1st practical method for cooking, sterilizing and bottling foods.
He placed the food to be preserved in a glass jar, allowing enough room for expansion, and placed a hand-hewn cork in the jar neck, attaching it firmly with a piece of wire. Each jar was then wrapped in a burlap sack and lowered into a pot of boiling water. He was successful in preserving eggs, milk products, fruits, vegetables and meats; was awarded the cash prize, and became known as “the man who discovered the art of making the seasons stand still.”