The air is getting cooler, which means that tomatoes are still at the farmers’ market, but instead of cozying up next to ears of corn, they’re sidled up next to apples which are crisp and red and ready for snacking. It’s the season for making a big batch of applesauce and setting it to cool on the countertop.
I’m sometimes asked what I feed my kids as they begin to branch out from their milk-only diet. I wrote a bit about it in my book, but I thought it might be nice to revisit here, especially because it’s applesauce season and especially because at nearly eight-months-old, Silas is determined to eat every single thing in sight.
As with so much else related to growing humans from babies into kids, there’s a lot that gets overly complicated in the world of starting solids. There are gadgets and gizmos and other products for sale that would leave you wondering if you need to invest a small fortune into turning your kitchen into a baby food factory. There are blog posts aplenty that might have you thinking you need to set up permanent shop in the kitchen, pureeing perfectly balanced morsels fit for tiny palates. There are pre-made foods on the market that might make you feel that your child must get a simultaneous taste of kale and peas and mangos and sweet potatoes every time they take a swallow…or else. And then there are books with theories on baby feeding that might make you feel like you’re doing permanent damage by introducing a spoon to your baby in the first place. A lot of it feels like it’s preying on a general parental anxiety that we’re not doing it right or haven’t sacrificed enough.
I’m hardly an expert, but in our family we’ve introduced solids in a few different, mostly very low-impact, ways. (Low-impact for the parents, that is.) Because it’s easy and because it produces nearly no extra waste, we’ve mostly always fed our kids what we’re eating ourselves. We’ve spoon-fed our babies when the food we had at hand fit neatly onto a spoon and semi-neatly into a mouth. We’ve let them maul their own soft foods when that seemed to make more sense and when we’ve had a whole morning ahead of us to remove banana plaster from hair and furniture. Other times, we’ve made applesauce because it’s the season to embrace apples and because the nights are coming faster and time spent indoors is increasing and because stewing fruits with a stick of cinnamon is a nice way to conjure a bit of autumnal magic. (And yes, we’ve bought jars of it when we’ve been too busy for witchy merry making.)
In our house, soft foods like bananas and oatmeal and avocados and tofu get mushed in a cup at the table. Beans might get cooked a bit longer and smushed for hungry, gummy, mouths. Tiny cups of kefir get poured and usually drunk, but also sometimes dashed to the floor in messy puddles. I do my best to make sure that I’m not giving babies anything they can choke on, but I’m also pretty confident in the baby gag reflex and so I let them explore with holding things like strips of sweet pepper or cucumber or whatever else they can gum to death and learn to appreciate over time. Solids, simply.
Whether or not there’s a baby that wants a nibble, a pot of homemade applesauce is a nice thing to make on a cool day. I peeled my apples, because goodness knows I need to put our apple peeler to work sometimes and because I don’t have a food mill. I didn’t add sugar, because babies and apples are two things that don’t really need sweetening. Below is the general gist.
Makes about a quart, depending on the size of the apples
What you need:
4-5 apples (a mix of varieties is nice, but I used Braeburns here)
a pinch of salt
What to do:
+ Peel and core your apples and slice them into uniform pieces.
+ Place apples in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan with about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom and a pinch of salt.
+ Cover and bring water to a boil. Once boiling, uncover and reduce heat slightly. Let cook until apple slices are soft and falling apart, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure they’re not sticking or burning.
+ Smash apples with a wooden spoon and refrigerate.
For the curious:
And for my curiosity:
Any favorite things to serve hungry baby birds, er, humans?