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Salad in a mason jar: Worth the trouble?

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How to Pack the Perfect Salad in a Jar: Cooking lessons from the KIT CHN

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Healthy eating isn't a new craze by far but the value of a mason jar is renewed. Lately, as the mason jar salad makes another round on Facebook, a few questions come to mind. Does it really work? How long will it really last? Is salad in a jar really as delicious as they say? What's the fate of the cheese? And finally, is it really worth all the trouble? This article sets out to discover the salad jar's secrets.

Always check your sources

Chances are, if there's a recipe out there, there are two or three others with similar and dissimilar information. It's easy to check and as they say, the Devil is in the details. After some research an immediate difference emerges between recipes. The recipe from theKitchn seemed the most concerned with questions of longevity, warning not to add "perishable proteins" (avocados, tomatoes, eggs or chicken) until the day the salad will be eaten. It is a widely known fact that sliced tomatoes won't even last a day in any situation. Still, the idea of making a salad in a jar only to add salad fixins again days later seems rather redundant.

The salad jar recipe by Be More Fitness suggests using cherry tomatoes and claims that hard boiled eggs will last up to a week inside a sealed jar. They make no claims about chicken or avocados though the mason jar salads shown have cooked shrimp and kiwi slices inside.

A mason jar does make a tight seal, however; that has been proven by decades of use. After some experimentation, the cherry tomatoes and hard boiled eggs were able to last the week without any wilting or browning. Avocados haven't had their day in court (or jar) but cheese lasted well and was undisturbed after a full week in the salad jar.

In need of a wide mouth?

The new wave of Do-It-Yourself innovation is about using what's already on hand to create a brand spanking new product. Anyone hip on crafts and reuse knows never to throw away a glass jar or lid. Rather than asking what a glass jar is good for, ask what a glass jar can't be used for. The answer to either question probably isn't to hold a salad, but there it is.

The first issue to present itself with the mason jar is that the salad is pretty difficult to get out of a standard mason jar (the type likely on hand). Use of a knife or chopstick helps get things moving but use of a wide mouth mason jar can prevent this issue altogether. Don't have any wide mouth mason jars on hand? There in lies the rub. It's okay, they are for sale at grocery stores everywhere and are 100% reusable. Then again, so are knives and chopsticks.

Be More Fitness doesn't specify jar size and instructs "when ready to eat: shake jar, place on plate, and eat." Well, in a standard jar you may shake it all you like and nothing is going to move around in there. The salad is pretty packed inside that jar and very plainly, doesn't shake.

Once agitated, the salad will come out with the dressing on top, as it began in the bottom of the jar, but the salad won't be well covered with dressing. That will require good ole fashioned manual labor. If the jar is less packed it may shake but then runs the risk of the greens touching the dressing before eating day, which will cause wilting and rot. The key is finding the ratio of how much salad to eat: to how much space to maneuver within the jar.

The Kitchn suggests a wide mouth jar and makes no promise the salad can be shaken for dressing distribution. After some experimentation, know you will be mixing your salad and serve it in a bowl and not on a plate.

Appetizing eye teasers

Perhaps the biggest draw of the mason jar salad is how intriguing it looks arranged in colorful layers in the jar. It really does look cute and appetizing all lined up in the fridge and will perhaps help inspire you to eat salad when you went to the fridge in search of something else. The more varied the salad ingredients, the more appetizing the salad. Nothing wrong with that.

Leftover salad is nothing more than compost

It's pretty obvious that making four salads is just as easy as making one salad, if not easier, since once chopping begins you will surely end up with extra ingredients. Why leave behind half a cucumber? Once half that lettuce head is chopped, you've got the knife out and the cutting board is already dirty, why not just finish the job? The problem is usually that left over salad is nothing more than compost. Once created, a salad has little to no shelf life. Making a salad isn't so simple of a thing either, as it usually contains at least a half dozen ingredients.

In this way the mason jar salad really delivers. Prepare a weeks worth of salads, seal them in a jar and they will remain as fresh as can be. Know that it does take a little grunt work to load the jars and later to extricate the salad, but know that any moment the salad urge strikes, you can eat instead of chop.

Final verdict: well worth the trouble.

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