When a community of fifty thousand people have all their eggs in two baskets and one is dropped it is a serious matter, not only for the industry concerned but for all who live upon it indirectly. Especially is this so when geographical isolation makes it impossible for the worker to transfer to other employment when his job fails. Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, has experienced the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune on several occasions since liberation from German thraldom revived both hope and opportunity to make up the loss and deprivations of those five weary years. It has not been all plain sailing. In addition to starved soil, depreciated and often ruined buildings, and other drawbacks experienced in common with agriculturalists in other countries, Jersey has had her own problems, chief of which has been the Colorado Beetle. A legacy of German neglect, this pest had established itself so widely on the island that the first crop of potatoes raised after Liberation was not safe to be imported to England, and was therefore sold to France. This was unsatisfactory from a financial point of view, and so the following year the crop was taken up by the Army of Occupation on the Rhine. By the season of 1947 sufficient progress had been made in the elimination of the beetle to allow crops from unaffected areas to enter England, and once again normal trading, in so far as controls of all kinds would permit, was resumed. Jersey is a twocrop island and potatoes must be succeeded by tomatoes if the highlypriced land is to be made to pay for itself. So while the first of these crops was just paying its way, the second was expected to clear costs and to make the farmer or grower his profit. When it looked as though this might be possible this season the islanders came up against another, and quite unexpected, snagtoo much fine weather. It may sound ungrateful to say this, in view of the many thousands of visitors which the continued sunshine brought to the island, and actually the farmer was glad enough to have the fine dry days in which to get his work done. But it reacted against him by bringing on his fruit too early and all at once, which meant that it arrived upon the market when there were still quantities of Guernsey and English glasshouse tomatoes as well as Dutch and other foreigngrown available, and Jersey shipments were so heavy that they caused a glut. Where a grower is situated near an industrial or residential area he has the opportunity in such circumstances of disposing of at least part of his fruit as it ripens, by retail or direct sale, even if only to passersby. But on an island where threequarters of the population is engaged in growing tomatoes or in handling them in some way, everyone is soon sick of the sight of them and it is impossible to give them away if a glut occurs. That happened this summer when on two occasions of several days each it was necessary for the authorities to prohibit picking the fruit. The island crop must be gathered when it is first turning from green to yellow in order to allow it to ripen during the process of grading, packing and transit by sea and rail to the wholesale distributors, and thence via the retailer to the ultimate consumer. Therefore, when the position arose that the distributors could handle no more of the 12 lb. trays and the order went out that no more fruit should be picked there were many thousands of these containers en route between the farmsteads and the ships which awaited them at the quayside. All this fruit became useless within a matter of hours, and the only thing to do with it would have been to drive to a disused quarry or to the seashore and dump the lot, had it not been for the local canning factory. Jersey Canners Ltd. has been in existence from the early days of this century, but were not in a position to handle a great deal of produce until this year, when they were taken under the wing of the National Canning Co. Ltd., with Mr. S. W. Smedley in control. A great deal of this surplus was therefore taken over by this factory and converted into puree and sauce, as well as being canned whole. The development and processing of the fruit in this way is a story of its own, but perhaps the most interesting feature of this factory's work is that of the preparation of tomato juice on a commercial scale. This latter process, as apart from the more usual methods of dealing with the tomatoes, was due to the foresight of Mr. Smedley, who early this year visualised the possibilities of utilising any surplus crop and thus, when the position arose, was able to put upon the market the first tins of pure tomato juice ever to have been produced commercially outside of the U.S.A. To do this it was necessary to install an American preheating vacuum pasteurising machine, but all other necessary mechanical appliances are British. These consist of endless belting, elevator, seamer, rotary cooker and cooler, and labelling machines. On arrival at the factory the fruit is conveyed from the lorries by roller belt to the elevator leading to the rotary washing machines. After thorough cleansing it passes on to a sorting belt, where diseased and immature samples are discarded and the remainder are stemmed by a small staff of women. The fruit is then fed automatically to the chopping machine and after treatment it experiences its first heating in the pasteuriser. This prepares it for the actual juice extraction, which is carried out in a machine which discards the cores, skins and seeds, and pumps the pure juice back into the preheater, where it is pasteurised at a temperature of 180 degrees. After passing through this process the juice flows to the automatic filling machine, which handles 60 cans per minute, and so to the seamer, where the lids are sealed down before the cans pass into the cooker. This is an automatic rotary machine which ejects the cans after 15 minutes at a temperature, of 212 degrees. They are then cooled off for ten minutes in a cold water tank and set aside for labelling. The purely mechanical processes here described appear to make the preparation of tomato juice a simple matter. Actually, however, it is one requiring much investigation into the problems of fermentation, colouring, etc., beforehand, and careful attention to temperatures and timing of the various processes while in operation. Cooking of the juice is effected by steam with the cans in a vacuum, this process conserving the vitamin contents and the natural colouring of the juice, two most important features which would be sacrificed if the liquid was exposed to the light at a high temperature. The plant at present installed at Messrs. Jersey Canners Ltd. is capable of handling up to four tons of fruit per hour and has been turning out about 30,000 cases of assorted 16 oz. and 32 oz. cans per month during the height of the rush period. At that time the factory was working right round the clock with the aid of volunteer workers, many of whom put in time at night after their own day's work, in order to save as much as possible of the crop that would otherwise have been thrown away.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Dec 1, 1947
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