How to Prepare and Store Baby Food
How to Can Baby Food
Many experts do not recommend canning baby food at home. Homemade canned foods may contain bacteria that often prove extremely harmful to babies 6 months of age or younger. If you do choose to can your baby food, however, start by selecting the right foods and preparing those foods in the most hygienic, nutritional way possible. Use a combination of canning and freezing to prevent most bacteria growth, or use pressure canning for a longer-lasting alternative.
Preparing the Food
Choose foods that are highly acidic.Think tomatoes, apples, peaches, and other fruits. High levels of acid create an unfriendly environment for bacteria to grow.
Wash all food before preparing it.A thorough scrub under running water can remove much of the dirt and bacteria that might be contaminating the food. You must remove as much as possible in order to create food safe for your baby to consume.
Steam cook the fruit to preserve more vitamins and minerals.Boiling can reduce the nutritional content of many foods.
Puree the food.Blend the cooked fruit with a little liquid in a blender or food processor.
Alternatively, mash the food.If your baby is a little older, he or she may be able to handle chunky foods, so a pureed recipe is no longer necessary. Use a fork to mash pre-cooked, softened foods into the desired consistency.
Add lemon juice.A touch of lemon juice acts as an added preservative, raising the acidic content of the food enough to ward off harmful bacteria. It also acts as a flavor enhancer.
Look for freezer-safe jars.Most glass jars are not safe for freezer use. Glass expands, which may cause chips or cracks to form and contaminate your baby's food. Some canning companies do produce freezer-safe glass and plastic jars, however.
Ladle the pureed or mashed food into the jars.
Leave inch (1.3 cm) of space between the food and the rim of the jar.Cold temperatures cause food to expand. Leaving extra room inside the jar allows the food to expand without the risk of breaking the jar.
Seal the jar with the right lid.If using a glass jar, consider using plastic caps instead of two-piece metal canning lids. Plastic lids are more flexible, which means that the glass is less likely to chip or break.
Store in the freezer for up to two months.The temperature should be at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 degrees Celsius).
Select the right jar.Stick with glass jars in pint or half-pint sizes when preparing baby food.
Ladle the prepared food into each jar.
Fill your canner with 2 or 3 inches (5.1 or 7.6 cm) of hot water.
Place filled jars onto the pressure canner's rack using a jar lifter.
Fasten the lid of the pressure canner securely.The lid must be snug and tightly sealed to maintain pressure during the canning process.
Set the canner to a high heat setting and steam for 10 minutes.Close any vents to allow the canner to pressurize. This process should take an additional 3 to 5 minutes.
Time the process once the dial or weighted gauge indicates that an appropriate level of pressure has been reached.If you live at an altitude between 0 and 1000 feet, pressure can the food for 20 minutes. If you live at an altitude between 1001 and 6000 feet, give the process 25 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the canner to depressurize.Do not force cool the pressure canner by running it under cold water or refrigerating it. Allow the pressure gauge to return to zero at a natural pace.
Unfasten the cover and tilt the far side up.Doing this allows the steam to escape away from you.
Remove the jars from the canner.Place on a rack lined with dry towels or newspaper and allow them to air dry and cool naturally.
Allow the jars to cool for 12 to 24 hours before storing in a cool, dark, and dry cupboard.
- Boil any homemade canned food for 10 minutes or more before serving it to your baby. Boiling food reduces the amount of bacteria that may have grown during the storing process.
- If using frozen canned food, slowly thaw the food in your refrigerator prior to serving. Avoid microwaving the food directly from the freezer, since this may cause an increase in hot spots that could burn your baby’s mouth.
- Read the manufacturer's instructions for your pressure canner. The specifics of each canner may vary.
- Opt for other storage methods, such as freezing, over home canning. Canned foods come with a higher risk of botulism since botulism spores breed best in low-acidic, anaerobic conditions.
- Avoid other canning methods. The high heat used in pressure canning may kill off many botulism spores, but low-heat methods may not.
- Do not can vegetables, red meats, or poultry. Many of these foods are low in acid and may present a friendly environment where bacteria can thrive.
Video: How To Make Your Own Baby Food
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