Preserving food is an activity that is essential to civilizations. People require a way to harvest and collect food when it is available and store it for later use. Methods for preserving food is tied to different cultural values and attitudes, access to equipment, and processes. It sometimes depends on time that people have to spend on the preservation process and the amount of space they have for stored food. Values that people have about the types of foods they should eat might also play a part in food preservation.
Originally preserving food was about survival. Increasing wealth in civilization allow people to move away from focusing merely on subsistence to focusing on better taste and keeping fresh foods available longer.
Drying food is the oldest method of preserving food. People have dried food by exposing to sun, drying it fire, or electricity. This method may be chosen when space for storing is limited as dried food takes less room than canned food. It may also be chosen where people do not have access to canning equipment or refrigeration.
Men in Mozambique drying fish
Native Americas drying meat
Access to equipment such as stoves and dehydrators can speed up the drying process. This access depends on access to they equipment and to electricity.
Canning food a way of preservation originated in France. This process usually results in food with more taste than dried food, and it preserves more nutrients than canning. In many countries home canning was once a primary way of preserving food from the harvest to last through winter. In industrialized countries now canning is more commonly associated with rural families and people who do it but not as a necessity.
Women canning vegetables
Home canned vegetables
Woman storing home canned vegetables
Now more people in industrialized nations rely on commercial canning than on home canning. In the US there are currently debates about the value of commercial canning due to health concerns with materials lining the insides of the cans.
Del Monte canned vegetables
Refrigeration allow for fresher food to last longer. Refrigeration is used in various degrees in different countries depending on the size of refrigerators and access to electricity. In America refrigeration is not normally considered a luxury we view it as a basic necessity for living. We are used to large refrigerators that allow us to store large quantities of fresh food. In other countries, such as Germany and English many home refrigerators are much smaller. Other countries with limited or no electricity cannot depend on refrigeration as a preservation method.