Several weeks ago, I opened the refrigerator at work and this cute little Mason jar filled with a salad. Curious, I asked around and found out it belonged to my friend and coworker Denise. She had seen this on Pinterest and was giving it a try. I did some research to find out what this Salad in Jar stuff was all about and learned that it’s a great way to keep salad fresh for several days, since the lettuce doesn’t get soggy. But the big thing for me is that by making several salads at once, you save lots of time. One of the reasons I haven’t (until now) taken salads to work very often is because I found it too time consuming to make them, especially when trying to get the kids ready for school, etc. So I was happy to give this a try to see if the salads would stay as fresh as people were claiming.
Most of the websites I visited had instructions on how to seal your jars using a vacuum-pack machine, once they were filled. Since I do not own a sealer, I found a few sites that said you could get by without sealing the jars, but the salads just wouldn’t last for a week. I decided to make three salads to be eaten 24, 48 and 72 hours to see just how fresh they would be without sealing them.
The most important thing in making these salads is the order in which you place the ingredients in the jars. I used quart-sized, wide-mouth Kerr jars. The wide-mouth jars make assembly easier.
First in is the dressing. You want this at the bottom of the jar where it will not come in contact with the lettuce. I wasn’t sure how much dressing to add - some sites suggested 2 to 3 ounces, but that was too much for me. I used Italian dressing for two of the jars and Ranch for the other, and next time will use 1 ½ ounces of the Italian and 1 ounce of the Ranch. It really depends on how much dressing you like.
Next, add the heavier vegetables. I layered grape tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, onions, black olives and celery – things that I thought would taste good after marinating in the dressing. I would have added carrots but was out of them. Just choose whatever veggies are your favorites.
If you like chicken or other meat in your salad, this is where you would add it as well as any dried fruit, such as cranberries, or any nuts or sunflower seeds – the combination of ingredients is almost endless.
Last in the jar is the lettuce. I tossed some spring mix and iceberg and put it in my salad spinner. Make sure that the lettuce is completely dry before you put it in the jar. I used about 2 ½ cups of lettuce per jar, but that will vary according to how much other ingredients you use.
OK, now for the results. I had the first salad in a jar approximately 24 hours after making it. It was as fresh as if I had prepared it right then and the veggies that had marinated in the Italian dressing were tasty and still held their firmness and/or crunch. Grade: A+
The second salad I had a little more than 48 hours after making it. I had this one for dinner, so added some leftover grilled chicken, sliced avocado and parmasean cheese. I especially loved the veggies that had marinated in the Ranch dressing – what a great combination. The tomatoes and cucumbers were still firm, but not quite as much as the day before. The lettuce was still nice and fresh – no sogginess whatsoever. Grade: A.
I tried the last salad in a jar about 72 hours after it was made. For the most part the lettuce was still nice and fresh, although there were a few pieces that I removed since they were starting to wilt. The cucumbers were beginning to become a bit soggy, but the celery and radishes were still crunchy. Grade: A-/B+
Bottom line: This is a great way for me to eat more salads during the week since I save so much time by preparing them all at once. They are much less expensive than what I can get in a restaurant and I’m eating healthy, too.
Eat, drink and be merry!
Follow Kel’s Café on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kelscafe