Canning baby food is probably not a priority for everyone, but if given the opportunity, why not do it? It is a great way to provide your baby with healthy food choices, but also save some money, and eventually time as well.
These are the 8 facts about canning baby food you need to keep in mind:
Fact #1: Not all baby food is the same
It is true that infants can begin to eat other things aside from breast milk or formula by 6 months of age. However, only babies 8 months and older can truly eat commercial baby foods that usually have a thicker texture. This means, you can’t prepare to can everything for your baby, as some foods may be too difficult and can lead to dangerous food textures or items for your child.
Fact #2: Home-canned foods come with risks
As you may already know, canning is not free of risks, and the same applies to canning baby food. Botulism is the main problem with homemade canned goods, and this risk is much higher in infants, who do not have a developed immune system yet.
Botulism spores can survive in anaerobic conditions, meaning they do not require any oxygen, so they can continue to grow once inside the canned food. Also, some contaminants in these foods prefer low acid environments and grow better without any oxygen.
Fact #3: Produce is not always safe from contamination either
Many people think that produce is free from contaminants, particularly after being washed. However, many produce items contain C. botulinum spores that are inactive. These can become active and produce deadly toxins under conditions of high moisture, low oxygen, low acidity, and room temperature.
Some of the commonly canned foods, like green beans, corn, peas, or other low-acid products, will require processing in a pressure canner to achieve high enough temperatures that make them safe to store and eat.
Fact #4: Boil canned foods before you eat them
It is recommendable that you always boil any home-canned foods for at least 10 minutes before you eat these foods. Keep in mind, though, that boiling will also make the food lose some of its nutrients.
Fact #5: If you want to home-can baby food, go with high acid foods
The best food to can safely at home is ones high in acid content, like fruits and tomatoes. If you choose any of these foods, then try using a water bath method of canning. This method is only safe for highly acidic foods, so if you are not sure about your food, you shouldn’t use the water bath method.
You can also increase your low acid foods by adding an acid, such as lemon or lime juice. Be sure to follow the instructions on how much to add and when during the canning process.
Fact #6: Don’t can pureed vegetables, red meats, or poultry
Even though the temptation may be there, it is not safe to can pureed vegetables, red meats, or poultry when it comes to baby food. The adequate processing times for pureed foods have not been determined yet when it comes to home canning, so there are no standards you can follow.
Instead, you can use regular procedures to safely can these foods in a pressure canner with the adequate processing times, and then puree and blend them at serving time.
Fact #7: If possible, always use a pressure canner
Not everyone has access to a pressure canner, but if you do, always use this method when canning at home. This method is the safest one because it uses high enough heat to kill botulism spores.
The toxin produced by botulism spores can only be killed in boiling water, and this must happen for sustained periods, which the pressure canner can withstand.
Fact #8: After age 1, your child may be safer
There is no real safe method for home canning baby food, but the risk of contamination will be less severe once your child has passed the one year mark. When a child turns a year old, they may have a better-developed digestive system that can fight off botulism.
Remember, however, that even with a stronger digestive and immune system, botulism remains a risk when you are home canning.
So, is it safe to home can baby food?
The answer is both yes and no. There are some risks, but if you follow the instructions and guidelines appropriately, your child will be safe. The best way is to follow the rules that exist on regular food, and then consider pureeing or blending food before you give it to your child.
As a tip, once you have pureed or blended foods and opened the canned container, these will only last for a day or two at most in the refrigerator.