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Canning Explained or Why is it Called Canning?

“Why do you call it canning when you put stuff in jars?” is a question I have received frequently.  A question I had but never bothered to look up since it’s just always been called canning in my family.  But that prompted this canning explained article for all of you.

Blame Napoleon Bonaparte.

Okay so he didn’t come up with canning but he did request it.  In 1795 he was blazing trails across Europe leaving trails of destruction in his wake, and the people with no food as he had to feed his troops.  After all an army marches on it’s stomach.

canning explained original canning bottleWhen he saw that his troops were not getting the food they needed he put up a contest of sorts.  12,000 Francs to whomever could devise a method of keeping food fresh while marching.  Nicolas Appert came up with bottling.  Sealing food in glass bottles sealed with corks and wax.

Then in 1811 an Englishman by the name of Peter Durand came up with a way of preserving food in tinned wrought iron cannisters, hence the English slang of tins.  This original process was very slow and labor intensive but over the years was refined and made into the mass production we have today.  But still stuff in cans not jars.

Canning Explained

So we see it started with jars or bottles and then went into cans but how back to jars and why still called canning.  Before the invention of modern mason jars a person couldn’t really “put up” or preserve their own food at home in this method.  Preserved food was either dried or salted.

In 1858 John L. Mason invented the modern canning jar and gave it his name.  A Mason jar.  He came up with a process that made it so that grooves could be added to the top of a jar and then a threaded cap put on.  These jars were then processed and the food sealed in.  No bacteria, no air, safe and stable for transport or storage with no refrigeration required.

So those last few paragraphs show how we got to where we are but still don’t explain why it’s canning instead of jarring.  Well for a long time you could put stuff in cans your self with special equipment designed to seal the cans.  But the cans weren’t reusable and it was difficult and expensive to do this.

So we started putting stuff in Mr. Mason’s jars but humans are lazy and jarring just doesn’t sound right so we keep calling it canning.  Also technically we are putting stuff in cannisters and can is just a shorted version of cannister.  So after doing a ton of research on this those are the two answers I was able to come up with.  You’re welcome to draw your own conclusions.

If you can think of a better, or different, reason please leave it in a comment below.

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