Food Processing in a Nutshell
Fresh food products have to be improved on through processing to get more useful forms out of them. Food processing can be achieved in different ways, some are more complex than others, while others are relatively simple and can be achieved at home with minimal equipment. In their original state, food items have limited applications when it comes to preparing them. Processing allows food items to be broken into different forms for more diversity in how these items are consumed. In processing, an item is being converted from its original form to a more useful state.
Food products have a short shelf life in their natural form and can only be consumed within a short period after harvest. Canning is one of the food processing techniques used to increase a product’s shelf life. In canning, the product is heated to high temperatures in a process called pasteurization. Heating the item kills the bacteria that are responsible for food decay. The cans are air-tight to ensure that these bacteria have no air hence cannot survive in the can. By ensuring you create a state that is unconducive to bacteria, you can extend the shelf life of food. Canning as a method of food preservation can be used on products such as fruits, cooked cereals such as beans, or meat.
Canned food is easy to prepare into a final meal and goes a long way in solving logistics solutions. Farmers of fresh produce have a limited window to dispose of their fresh produce. By providing them with a method for processing their produce into a not easily perishable state, such farmers can buy more time to market their products. Transporting perishable goods is a logistic nightmare since the slightest delay can result in the goods going bad or reducing quality. Canning solves this issue by providing a way to improve on how long a product can stay edible.
Fermentation is a food processing method that works with bacteria to produce a more dynamic product from produce. Beverages such as beer are made and preserved using fermentation. Through a fusion of different ingredients, fermentation can be used to create a relatively new product. While milk in its natural state goes bad a few hours after production, making yogurt out of it assures a longer time frame. Bread production relies on yeast acting on the dough, the resulting reaction from fermentation is essential in baking.
Heat is not the only solution for preserving food, and cold can also be used in food processing. Through freezing, some perishable products can be exposed to low temperatures to discourage bacterial activity. Bacteria cannot thrive in low temperatures, by lowering the temperature, you kill these causes of decay. Commercial companies dealing in items such as meat need cold rooms to serve as storage units. Food can be processed at home using this method by using a freezer. Food can stay edible for longer at this low temperature, frozen items stay fresh longer, allowing for a product such as fish over longer distances.
A more traditional way of preserving food is smoking, the smoke from burning an item such as wood forms a protective coating around an item preserved. Smoking dries food by draining water, and moisture has a way of bringing about decay. When preserving meat or fish, smoking works to drain all elements of moisture and gives you a form that will last longer. Smoking uses minimal technique and tools to get the job done since it’s a relatively simple procedure that can be carried out at home. It is not feasible to use this method in an industrial setting because of the cost implications of fuel.
In processing, additives play a pivotal role in food processing on a commercial scale. The additives help improve the shelf life of food, and preserved foods would go bad while still in their packaging without the addition of certain chemical elements. Whether natural or chemically manufactured in a lab, these additives help in assuring the food quality remains intact. In some instances, these additives improve the taste and texture of certain foods. To process food to a more durable state, you need additives to tweak the expiration period that nature has imposed on certain foods.