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prepare than fruits, partly because of the starchy nature, which favors fermentation. ... Just a word here on the fundamental principles of preserving such perishable articles. It means killing all the low forms of vegetation, such as molds and bacteria on the surface of the fruit or vegetables, together with any that may get in during the handling necessary in preparation and any clinging to the vessels used in the process. Heat is the best sterilizer, and if it did not injure the flavor and appearance it would be a simple matter to “put up” any of these things. It is, however, a nice distinction to draw the line between the degree of heat needful to kill the undesirable plant life and that which harms the subject of the operation. Mr. E. F. Pernot, of Oregon, has made experiments on canning vegetables and fruits. He finds that the most successful method is the heating of clean, fresh vegetables in jars of sterilized water. The jars are sealed and heated to 165° F. for fifteen minutes. They are then allowed to stand for twenty-four to forty-eight hours, after which the operation is repeated. Still a third time the jars were heated and the process completed.1
Again, these objectionable plants, while easily killed, have “ seeds,” or “spores,” which endure a greater heat, and so sprout in a few days. This necessitates a second heating and greater danger to flavor and appearance. To obviate this, various preservatives have been added. In our present ignorance as to the effect of such additions on health it is wisest to omit them and cook
1 Oregon Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 87.
sufficiently to preserve the fruits and vegetables without them.
It goes without saying that, other things being equal, a tall, narrow jar or can will serve better than a short, wide one. The cans of French peas are a case in point; the narrow bottles of our grandmothers offer another.
Vegetables contain more proteids, as a rule, than do fruits; they also harbor more organisms, and are correspondingly difficult to keep. Compare sweet corn and pears, for instance. The small kernel is attached to the cob by a narrow hook, with plenty of room around the socket for the hiding of molds and fungi; these mingle with the corn as cut from the cob, and it is no wonder that the keeping of corn is more difficult than that of the large, smooth-coated pear.
Great use is made of canned goods, from the housewife's dozen jars to the tons put up in tins by large concerns. Most of these are wholesome and valuable additions to the bill of fare. When put up whole defects are visible, and it is chiefly from preservatives that there is danger. These are more probable in the handsome product in glass jars. Benzoic acid has been found, and in some brands both this and the sulphites. Sulphite preparations have been sold to the housewife to enable her to compete with the shop in appearance.
The universal use of tin cans has led health authorities to watch closely for excess of tin and lead from careless soldering, with the result that today only the best quality of tin and lap solder on the outside are found on standard goods. In the earlier days of can
ning even condensed milk has contained enough lead to give rise to lead poisoning of children. It was not uncommon to pick out lumps of solder, several of them as large as peas or beans, from a can of tomatoes. With better knowledge, these poor quality cans are little used; still the housewife will do well to scrutinize a few cans of each new brand to see if the joints are lap joints, that means, showing no solder inside, and if the tin is without evidence of action by acids. The poor quality tin is an alloy much more readily acted on.
The danger from the solution of tin and lead is much greater when canned goods are depended upon for staple foods in camp in distant regions. It is undoubtedly true that time does increase the amount dissolved, so that dating would have a certain value. : The cry has gone over to the coloring matter introduced as coal tar color. This is added from purely æsthetic considerations, and it is wholly in the housewife's power to stop it by refusing to buy decorative fruits, jams, and jellies.
Meats which are to be used for canning are usually partly cooked first, and then put into cans and heated and sealed. If the meat is in good condition there is no occasion for adding any preservative or extraneous substances.
The housewife should see to it that each can is examined when opened, for both appearance and odor will reveal bad conditions nine times out of ten. Also explicit directions should be given to empty the metal can as soon as it is opened, and to put the can where it cannot hold water to breed mosquitoes.
When proper precautions are taken the danger from canned goods is no greater than from articles purchased in the open market.
From the extensive investigation being made in the state laboratories from one end of the country to the other this year (1906), it seems fair to conclude that many of the “minced” products sold under the name of meats have been “ filled” with corn meal, which also allows more water to be held in the material than in meat only. Occasionally an excess of zeal for utilizing waste products has made these canned goods a dumping ground for scraps better sent to the fat extractor or the fertilizer house. In some cases preservatives have been added.
But the public should know that the temptation to extend a finely divided substance, which to the unaided eye is homogeneous, is too great to be resisted by unscrupulous manufacturers.
As in the case of meats, the products in which the original form of fruit or vegetable is not kept offer the widest field for both sophistication and adulteration, that is, catsups, sauces, jams, jellies, etc. It is said that, as in pickling of meats, these materials are often collected during other processes and kept in barrels or tanks until enough has accumulated for putting up. It is reasonable to suppose that this is sometimes done and that preservatives are added to such tanks.
“Sterilized by heat and sealed from contamination by germs, there is no class of food stuffs in so little need of preservatives. It should be taken as almost positive evidence of careless methods in packing if preservatives are found present. These may have been used to prevent stock spoiling while awaiting the final process of canning, or to assist in preserving it from further deterioration, fermentation having set in. In many cases artificial coloring is resorted to in order to make the goods more attractive. This is especially the case with tomatoes, and indeed with them the matter is often overdone and they are colored beyond the natural degree.”1
JELLIES In the case of jams, jellies, and preserves, the ignorance of the consumer who has never seen the processes of “putting up” fruit has permitted the manufacturer to palm off unsuitable articles. The buyer has no knowledge of and takes no pains to inform himself about the appearance of the pure article, and is easily persuaded that an inferior one is just as good. He pays the usual penalty of ignorance, in money, in health, and in self-reproach. It is possible to know all about the goods we buy, as was said earlier. The taxpayer supports laboratories for the purpose of protection, but all their efforts are multiplied because the buyer will not take the trouble to read the labels that the law has made plain.
The people have this matter in their hands. The use of preservatives has prevailed because, as in many other directions, appearance is valued before quality, color before flavor. Indeed the average palate seems to have no discrimination.
1 Report of Professor Willard in the Bulletin of the Kansas State Board of Health, June, 1906.