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Deep freezing and Refrigeration

The Chinese were cutting and storing ice as early as 1000 BC; the Caesar"s brought ice down from the Apennines; and French kings imported ice from Sonnefjord, in Norway, and built special ice storage rooms in their castle cellars.

But frozen food, as we know it, would have been impossible without mechanical refrigeration.

Francis Bacon, back in 17th century England, got fatal pneumonia while attempting to freeze chickens by stuffing them with snow. But Michael Faraday, the English physicist and chemist, discovered in 1823, that certain gases under constant pressure will condense until they cool; and just eleven years later, a Massachusetts inventor living in London, Jacob Perkins, produced the first continuously acting refrigerating machine on which all home refrigerators are still based. It pumped away the vapour and condensed it under pressure so it could be used again and again.

A French engineer, Edmund C. Carré, developed the first absorption system in the early 1850"s, and a German, Carl P.G. von Linde, introduced the first successful compression system using ammonia in 1873.

But it was 1918 before the first practical automatic home refrigeration was available; and ice "harvesting" remained a big industry in the U.S.A. well into the 1930"s. Today over 99% of British homes have refrigerators, and over half deep freezes.

Although Inuets knew the preserving qualities of ice, the pioneer of modern freezing was Clarence Birdeye, a scientist from Brooklyn U.S.A. On an expedition to Labrador for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1914, Birdeye noticed how the Inuet handled fish and caribou steaks - and how they tasted fine weeks later.

After World War 1, he went into the fishery business in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and experimented freezing food.

The first of his products went on sale in 1930, but they cost a lot more than fresh food, and required special handling in the kitchen. Despite these obstacles, in less than 10 years a whole gamut of foodstuffs was being marketed in quick-frozen versions across America.

The biggest impact was, in fact, on the fishing industry. Fish being able to be frozen in factory ships at sea.

But only food without a high water content freezes satisfactorily - so strawberries have never been successful, collapsing when thawed.

It should be remembered that freezing doesn"t kill bacteria, it merely arrests their growth. See 'Defrosting of Frozen Food'

If you enjoy cooking take a minute to look at ‘Simon Scrutton French Cookery Classes’ on Google – and learn how to make top class bistro-style dishes. Suitable for beginners upwards. Small classes.

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