Conservation (lat. conservatio – to preserve) is the processing of food raw materials or products, as a result of which the food is protected from microbiological spoilage. The ingenuity of the Lithuanian people and the exceptional location in the historical-political and geographical plane determined that all conservation methods were perfectly mastered and are used in Lithuania to this day, according to the KTU report.
“After all, could you imagine a Lithuanian without crackling, crying tears in the cold smoke – fermented, meat product or dried curd cheese that came from the LDK times, smoked or salted bacon. Probably, without these products, the country’s cuisine would not even remotely resemble Lithuania”, says A. Šalaševičienė.
© KTU archive
Food hoarding was motivated by a historical context
“For a Lithuanian, stocking up or having food “on hand” to feed himself and a guest is a normal activity, a component of the lifestyle, determined by the geographical location, seasonality, geopolitical conflict situations – wars and interwars,” says A. Šalaševičienė.
Therefore, according to the Director of the Food Institute, canning is an excellent means of preserving food, stockpiling food not only in sad periods of crisis, but also enjoying seasonal products when you want them.
“Of course, these days we can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables from distant lands, but the COVID-19 situation has proven that such long supply chains are unstable, fresh food supply chains can “break” and what we have ourselves preserved, preserved, today acquires and a completely different meaning: in terms of quality, convenience and safety, it is reliable”, says A. Šalaševičienė.
© KTU archive
The director of the Food Institute says that canned food products are very useful not only for the body, but also for the environment: “From the perspective of sustainable food use, it is preserved in this way, and the amount of agricultural waste produced is reduced.”
A. Šalaševičienė has no doubts that food preservation was and will be a traditional Lithuanian food preparation method, which takes on a different meaning every time in the face of today.
Due to the intelligence of Lithuanians themselves, technological progress, cleverness of packaging, the director is convinced that food preservation becomes more attractive, accessible and faster. “The state policy to develop short food supply chains is one of the measures that still confirms the longevity and advantages of the preservation method (fermentation, salting) in the face of a sustainable green course”, says A. Šalaševičienė
Canned meat is still a thriving culture in Lithuania
We can still see canned meat on the Lithuanian table, which keeps well even for several years. A. Šalaševičienė states that we can “praise” preserves because of such valuable substances as proteins, fats or carbohydrates, mineral substances – food substances that are necessary to sustain our life.
“Despite the positive properties of canned meat, I think it is not an everyday product. In canned, pasteurized or sterilized meat, exposure to a certain temperature reduces temperature-sensitive compounds, e.g. the biological value of vitamins and other substances”, says the director.
However, combining meat with vitamin-rich vegetables on a plate often ensures a healthy balance of nutrients.
Canned food is different in its composition, it depends on the type of meat, different levels of mincing (in pieces or ground, with sauces, in broth, etc.), different parts of the carcass used. The director of the KTU Food Institute says that we will see different ratios of proteins, fats and other nutrients on the labels, so a citizen of Lithuania who does not make his own canned goods should analyze the product labels and buy those canned products that he wants that day, i.e. “needs” for his body: one you will need more fatty preserves, another leaner, one rich in vegetables, and another in the form of meatballs, etc.
© KTU archive
“Home-made canned meat has an advantage – the recipe is known, and the produced product is always sweeter and tastier,” says Antanas Šarkinas, a researcher at the KTU Food Institute. At home, the safety and long shelf life of canned meat is determined by home hygiene conditions at the production site, proper sterilization of containers, and the use of appropriate temperature regimes in the processing of the product itself.
A researcher from the KTU Food Institute says that manufactured industrial preserves are usually stored at ambient temperature (up to 25 oC), while home-made preserves are stored differently, and this especially depends on the amount of added salt and fat.
A. Šarkinas says that the less salt and fat there is in a manufactured product, the higher the probability that such a product will need to be stored in the refrigerator. “Before consuming canned meat, let’s first of all evaluate them by visually inspecting how the packaging (glass or other container) looks, whether it is not cracked, not cracked, whether the lid is tightly fitting or not raised, and when we open it, we always smell it, whether the smell is attractive to our nose or whether it has unpleasant notes “, advises the scientist.
“For unskilled home canners, I suggest not to reduce the salt – you need to add a good tablespoon of salt to 1 kg of meat, don’t spare the fattier pieces, when cooking in the oven, heat the meat in a covered jar for up to 3 hours, not lower than 120 oC, and store the product in the refrigerator. Lithuanians also have a special device – an autoclave (pressure is created when the container is heated), in which the container with meat is “flooded” with water and heated to 80 oC for several hours”, says A. Šarkinas about the production of canned meat at home.
© KTU archive
Lithuanians know how to preserve various meats and various parts of the carcass. In the past, Lithuanians used the good parts of the animal carcass for preserves, and reserved the harder, more fibrous part of the meat carcass for preserves.
According to A. Šarkin, such meat is characterized by a greater amount of connective tissue (cartilage or tendons), this tissue softens at high temperature and during long cooking or boiling, and becomes easier to bite and consume.
“However, I will notice that Lithuanians, when making “home” preserves, still choose valuable parts of the carcass, such as ham, shoulder, neck or even sirloin. And then everything else – it depends on our choices, for whom it tastes fatter – we will take neck, for those who like it less fat – ham, etc.,” he emphasizes.
To share excess food and feel moderation
The director of the KTU Institute of Food invites us to rethink whether we are really consuming too much food, maybe we need to reduce our needs and that worry about storing food will disappear. Resting the body from food through intermittent fasting is a food culture that is gaining ground in the health-conscious food community.
“I believe that in the near future, consumers will learn to share excess food, understand and feel the need (measure) of food that is necessary for the body, learn to “accept” energy not only from food, but also from the environment. Well, today science continues to develop and improve sustainable and new food technologies. For example, meat from cells, milk from grass – all these will be our preventive measures for poverty and other unpredictable challenges related to food”, says A. Šalaševičienė.
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