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Nov. 17, 1749: Father of Modern Canning Born

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Old 11-17-2008
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Nov. 17, 1749: Father of Modern Canning Born
1749: Nicolas Appert is born. He will invent the modern food-canning process while trying to help Napoleon conquer Europe.
By 1795, France was in an expansionist mood and quarreling with its neighbors. As the army and navy found themselves increasingly embroiled in foreign entanglements, the realization that an army travels on its stomach began forcefully hitting home. Looking for a way to efficiently provision its troops in the field, the revolutionary government offered a prize of 12,000 francs to whoever could devise a way of doing just that.
Nicolas Appert, an experienced chef living on the outskirts of Paris, took up the challenge. More than a decade later, he had the solution.
Through experimentation, Appert eventually concluded that the best method of preservation was to heat the food to the boiling point of water, then seal it in airtight glass jars.
Appert's principles were tested successfully by the French navy, which found that everything from meat to vegetables to milk could be preserved at sea using his method.
Napoleon was running things by now and immediately recognized the benefit to his far-flung armies. He was so grateful to have the problem of victualing solved that in 1810 he had the revolutionary government's Directory award Appert the 12,000 francs.
Appert took the money and opened the world's first cannery. The cannery was destroyed in 1814 as Napoleon's world came crashing down.
A few years later, Englishman Peter Durand refined the process even more by switching from glass to the tin containers we associate with modern canning.
Fortunately for Appert, Napoleon did not retain his services as chef on his ill-fated invasion of Russia, and so lived on until 1841, dying at 91.
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