A visit to Liverpool’s preserved provision manufactory

Daily Post, Jan 16th 1869

A visit to Liverpool’s preserved provision manufactory

A manufactory for preserving provisions having been opened in this town we proceed to sketch its peculiarities.

Amongst the chief obstacles to any foreign enterprise has been the difficulty in procuring suitable provisions. The only method in vogue for ages, to enable adventurers to store up food for future use, were by drying and salting. But these had disadvantages, when for a long period men had to subsist on them, everyone is familiar with the dreadful results to soldiers and particularly seafarers by the continued use of salted and dried provisions, scurvy, fever and other diseases have raged with undisputed sway, entailing horrors and disasters on commercial enterprise.

It would be expecting an impossibility to imagine any system could allow food to be kept for a long period and still have the peculiarities of home cooking, but this has been accomplished. Now by certain processes of heating and hermetically sealing in well prepared canisters, all kinds of provisions from a leg of mutton to a partridge or turtle soup, can be placed in a comparative vacuum, and thus preserved for years with certainty and satisfaction.

This discovery is of great importance to our army, navy and mercantile community, enabling them to gets thousands of miles from home, the delicacies of the season. The emigrant at sea may feast as if in a hotel on shore and the consequence, apparently, is found in the disappearance of scurvy and other diseases amongst those who are privileged to use preserved provisions.

Since the time of the peninsular war, when preserved fresh meats were first introduced, there have been successive improvements in the principle. Under the original system heat was applied for such lengths of time that almost destroyed the flavour and colour. This was the plan of the Frenchman APPERT, who obtained some distinction through his discoveries which are still carried on by some of the few manufacturers of preserved provisions of the present day.

Meat or vegetables are placed in canisters and then soldered up and plied in hot water baths were they are subject for many hours to boiling heat. They are next taken out and pierced, when the gases evolved in boiling, rush out, they are soldered up again and the canisters subjected to further heat for several hours.

The company established in this town, their offices being at, 61 Tower Buildings, and their manufactory in Cumberland St, adopt an entirely different and newer system.

By their plan it is alleged they retain the flavour, solidity and nutrients, chiefly on account of the shortness of time they are under the process of heating to expel the air and gas in the canisters, which is not more than a third of the time in the old process.

The description of sea store is cheaper and more convenient than live stock or the former means of procuring fresh provisions. Again at sea in an emergency, rough weather etc, these provisions may be served cold, just as they come from the canisters.

The system has had high class testimonials from those who have tested their value, amongst them, Sir John FRANKLIN, who tried them in his early Arctic expeditions, Sir J. ROSS, Capt Robert MC CLURE, Capt AUSTIN, Sir Edward CODRINGTON, Vice Admiral COCHRANE, Sir Edward PARRY, Sir Astley COOPER, and others.

Liverpool being the most extensive port in the world and emigration from it three fold, than that from any other, it is surprising there was not, long since, an establishment of this kind to supply seafaring people on the spot. The establishment now opened, that it was in want is shown by its rapid extension which the premises are continually undergoing.

We visit the manufactory, on entering the basement one is struck my the large quantities of beef, poultry and game in the course of preparation for preserving. In another department is seen piles of vegetables, carrots, turnips, parsnips and onions. Still further on are numerous tinmen at work making canisters, whilst in other rooms are thousands of canisters filled with soups, fish, game, beef, mutton, vegetables etc, ready for the tops to be soldered on.

The first objects at the commencement of the process are two large steam-boilers, for the special purpose of generating steam for heating of soup coppers, baths etc, thereby dispensing with the direct application of fire as in the old method of preserving.

We then come to the butcher’s room, the company buyers attend the cattle market at Old Swan and purchase stock from the wholesale dealers. The cattle slaughtered at the abatoir and brought ready dressed to this room. Where dexterous butchers bone the meat, whilst others weigh and pack it neatly in the canisters, sized according to weight. All that goes into the tins is meat, and in one piece, whilst game, partridge, grouse etc are put in singly or in braces, with the requisite sauces after having been previously roasted. Hares, ducks, geese are put in whole as well as in parts. Ducks are always packed with a complement of green peas, sage and onion etc.

There are canisters containing whole legs of mutton ready with caper sauce, other canisters filled with soups, for making which the arrangements are extensive and complete.

There are large quantities of dried herbs hung up and in bottles, as well as peppers and spices, it matters not what dish is required, for any that the most skilful French cook could prepare can be put into a tin case, so that at the required time, however distant, it shall be cooked by the epicure. The operations are superintended by experienced cooks.

The filled tins are hoisted through a trap door to the room above, here they are placed on tables and tinmen are ready with irons and stoves to solder the tops on them with a sufficient pressure, sufficient to raise the temperature of the bath to an astonishing degree. In these baths, filled with a peculiar liquid, composed to retain great heat, the canisters are arranged. On becoming hot, a thin jet of steam ascends from each, through the hole punctured in the top, the hands then when the provisions are ready promptly solder up the puncture. This operation is attended with some danger for occasionally the canisters burst like shells about the room or through the roof. Each tinman is responsible for his canisters and has to put his stamp on every one he makes, so that in case of a defect he may be brought to account. This process completed they are transferred to another department for cleaning then from there sent into the proof-room.

Here they are kept for many hours in a tropical heat, should gaseous matters be left, the canisters bulge out. They are next sent to the paint-room, where they are painted externally to prevent corrosion. The next process is one of labelling, they are then ready for packing and shipment.

Two cases containing preserved beef, another containing a brace of partridges, and another a quart of chicken soup, were taken from the stock in the storeroom and opened on the spot. A peculiar knife made for the purpose is used to open them and it rips off the lid as though made of pasteboard.

On the last plunge the rush of air from the canisters is remarkable, the soups are solid like jelly, and the beef drops out of the cases in solid rolls, something like hung-beef. The condition and freshness from each is remarkable.

6,000 lbs of beef can be preserved each day, on Saturday last when we visited the establishment, they were engaged in sending off the last of an order of 36,000 lbs of beef intended for our troops in China. The establishment has also received the favourable recognition of the French commissariat.

It is said the provisions can be supplied at a price under the retail charges for corresponding articles in the market, a result attainable by the provisions being purchased at wholesale markets.


Copyright 2002 / To date