Discover the difference: Why homemade purées excel over store-bought varieties

Three companies recalled fruit purée pouches in response to a Centers for Disease Control voluntary recall announced in November.

That was after reports of more than 230 cases of lead poisoning in 34 states, all linked to apple cinnamon fruit purée pouches sold by WanaBana. After the CDC recall, Schnucks and Weis also pulled similar products from stores. The Food and Drug Administration believes contaminated cinnamon is the source of the issue and is working with authorities in Ecuador to resolve it.

According to the CDC, lead contamination is especially harmful to small children. It leads to brain damage and other serious side effects.

That is an alarming number of illnesses from one seemingly healthy snack for your child. The good news is that you can make these easy snacks in your kitchen with minimal effort. Countless vegetables and fruits work well in healthy purées, sweet and savory.

What Is a purée?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a purée is a smooth, creamy substance made with fruits or vegetables.

These are great for toddlers and young children. Still, they're also appropriate for anyone with dental complications, like new braces or dentures, along with the sick or elderly.

Purees can add a beautiful presentation element to your plates for entertaining or just for a special family dinner. According to the Tasting Table, fine dining restaurants use purées to add flair to meals. Humans eat with our eyes and mouths, and a visually stunning plate can fool the brain into thinking the food tastes better.

The history of purée

Puréed food came about, like all great human inventions, out of necessity. Why? You guessed it, baby food.

Henry Clapp, from Rochester, NY, developed a puree in 1920 on the advice of his child's pediatrician. They were trying to combat a hungry toddler's nutrition and the predominant problem of the era: keeping food fresh.

In their time, the contents were fruit, vegetables, and soups consisting of vegetables and meat stocks. Henry Clapp's first concoction was a liver soup made with liver, beef broth, and vegetables — nutritious foods for his growing toddler.

What are some foods that lend themselves to purée?

Fast forward to today. The possibilities are truly endless. Fruit purée can consist of apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, bananas, mangoes, and more.

Make savory vegetable purée with squash, beets, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes. Some vegetables like broccoli, green beans, or asparagus don't lend themselves well to puréeing. They tend to be stringy and have an unpleasant texture.

You can even purée meats or legumes, like beans. Hummus is a chickpea purée.

Do you need to add additional ingredients?

The short answer is yes and no. Many of the fruit versions require no additional ingredients. You can make a banana purée with just bananas.

Suppose you want to add additional flavor or need a change of pace. In that case, you can make applesauce with apples or add sugar, honey, or cinnamon. Occasionally, water or mild fruit juice, like white grape juice or apple juice, may be required to thin the purée to the desired consistency.

Vegetable purée will usually require thinning. Some good options are various broths, like chicken broth, beef broth, or vegetable broth. Other options are milk, cream, coconut, almond, or non-dairy milk.

Add spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, and rosemary, or other flavors, like onion, garlic, apples, vinegar for acidity, or sweeteners at your discretion.

Ways to make a purée

They are straightforward to make and only take a few minutes. Peel and core the fruit or vegetable that you want to use. Many fruit purées, like bananas, peaches, and mangoes, do not have to be cooked. Just pop them in your food processor and run it until you get a smooth consistency.

Other fruits, like apples and pears, should be poached first. Slice them and barely cover them with water. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat and poach for about 15-20 minutes until they are soft.

Vegetables all require cooking until they are soft. They can be roasted, boiled, or braised. Once soft, add them to your food processor and use a thinning agent to make them creamy.

Some purées, like particular winter squash and potatoes, are best mashed by hand, with a mixer, or with a ricer. Don't use your food processor; they can become pasty, and the texture will be undesirable.

Meat purée requires thinning. For meat, add meat stocks or broth and aromatics, like cooked onion or carrots.

How can you preserve your purée for long-time storage?

Fruit purées can generally be water bath canned. Use a reputable source, like the National Center for Home Food Preservation, for your recipes.

Experts do not recommend canning vegetable or meat purées in home kitchens. Use chunks rather than mashing or puréeing if you want to can them. Then you can remove one jar from the pantry and purée it, as needed.

The other option to preserve the meat and vegetables is to freeze them in small packages and purée them as needed. Frozen packages will last six months to one year, depending on the product. Vacuum packaging is the best option.

Freeze prepared meat and veggie purée in portions. Package them in 2-3 day servings, and always thaw them in the refrigerator.

Pure and protected: The assurance of homemade purées in an era of commercial recalls

Relying on commercially produced products is convenient. But as these recalls have shown, there are better options. With today's improved technology and knowledge, making and preserving these foods at home is easy.

Anyone can achieve homemade purées with excellent quality and flavor, which are organic, free of preservatives, and simple.

Embracing this practice safeguards our well-being and motivates us to enjoy preparing wholesome, fresh meals for ourselves and our loved ones.

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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