A fast and easy way to create a salad-to-go or prepare food ahead of time for a snack, lunch, picnic or dinner is to know how to layer the ingredients in the correct order. Wide mouthed Mason jars are the best container for creating a salad but other jars recycle as well.
Step 1: Select the size mason jar
The size of the jar matters, a pint size jar is for a small side of salad, a quart jar for a salad only meal and a 2-quart size jar or larger is for a family meal. Wide mouth mason jars work best, however, a regular mouth size jar will work fine.
- Wash and sterilize mason jars to keep the salad fresher longer. The more the bacteria is washing away, the fresher the salad will stay even up to 9 days depending on your salad toppings.
- Make sure you have a tight lid that fits each jar and if you can vacuum seal them.
Step 2: Cleaning fruit and vegetables
Clean fruits and vegetables thoroughly with clean potable cold water. Vegetables or fruit with thick skin like a melon, for example, can be scrubbed with a brush. A salad spinner will remove excess water on your salad greens removing even more bacteria.
Step 3: Cleaning fragile fruit
For fruit salads, clean all your fruit before adding them to the jar. Fragile fruit like raspberries should be placed in a colander then pour distilled water over them and soak the other fruits and berries in water to remove bacteria. Pat everything with a clean paper towel to remove even more bacteria and excess water. Do not use soap or detergents to clean food.
Step 5: Layering
The way you layer your salad is important to maintain freshness. Always put the wettest ingredient on the bottom and the next wettest on top layering in this pattern until the jar is filled.
- Place salad dressing in the bottom of the jar.
- Add soft vegetables next such as tomatoes, using cherry or grape tomatoes uncut the salad may last longer.
- Next add cooked meats, cooked pasta and hard vegetables in this layer and lighter toppings such as red or green onion and bacon bits, peas, chopped egg, mushrooms and cheese.
- Finally, add leafy greens like arugula, romaine and baby spinach.
- Optional: Top the jar off with a baggy of sunflower seeds, nuts or croutons.
Always check for freshness before eating, even if the lid is sealed tight or vacuum sealed. Store salads with meats no more than 3 or 4 days, except ham that is cured, it can last an extra day. For fresh salad and vegetables you can keep the salad in the refrigerator up to 9 days.
Step 4: Adding the salad dressing
Does the salad dressing go in the salad or on the side? The salad dressing can be added to the bottom most layer of the jar. It would be the first ingredient to add to your salad. If you are not eating the salad for a few days or the salad is too oily or fatty then this might not be the freshest idea. Here are several ways to deal with the salad dressing issue:
- Place in a separate container, if the salad is oil and vinegar based and it tips over it will wilt the salad and vegetables faster.
- Place fatty or creamy salad dressing in a container as well. The fat content will harden up and not taste freshly poured after a day or two in the jar.
- The best salad dressing to add to your salad if you must is low-fat or fat free salad dressing. These salads might last 2 or 3 days.
- Place a service size of dressing in a sandwich bag (non-zip) twist it shut and knot it to seal it tight. Add it to the top of the salad jar before sealing it shut.
- Mini-cups and lids are perfect for separating a single serving of salad dressing from the other ingredients. These can be purchased at Walmart, Sysco or Amazon.com.
- Buy individual packets of salad dressing on Amazon.com then using a large rubber band secure the packet to the jar. A napkin wrapped fork can be added with the dressing packet so its all in one and ready to eat.
Keep refrigerated until ready to eat. Here is Caleb Hastings video on how to vacuum seal your jars for added freshness.