Nicholas Appert

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Nicholas Appert (1749 - 1841) was the inventor of the technique of bottling that kick-started modern food conservation. From Appert's work, bottling and then canning became important techniques within food manufacture - what is even more impressive is that this was done before there was any scientific understanding of microbiology that had to wait for Louis Pasteur.

Appert first came to public attention when Grimod de la Reynière wrote about him in his third Almanach des Gourmands (1806). In this, Grimod praised how Appert had found a technique of bottling fruit and vegetables, enabling them to be kept for a long time. Grimod especially extolled the peas: "the petits pois above all else were as green, as tender and as delicious as those eaten in season."

Appert was a manufacturer of confitures, so it was important for him that fruits could be preserved. However, Appert discovered that his techniques could be extended to other foods than just fruits, because he worked out that any food in an hermetically sealed bottle that was sterilized by boiling would keep for months, or even years. Moreover, the food was taste almost identical to freshly cooked food products, as taste that did not survive traditional techniques like salting, drying or smoking.

With Appert's publication in 1810 of Art de conserver, he opened up the concept of preserving foods to the domestic sphere and won a prize of 12,000 francs from the French government, because it helped the problem of how to feed an army and navy.

Appert used bottles and jars in his first factory that opened in 1812. In 1822, he switched from bottles to using tin plated cans, so starting the canning method.

Further Reading

  • Davidson, A. (1999) The Oxford Companion to Food, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192115790.