Canning jars are great for food storage: reusable, durable, easy to clean, and beyond that, they have a certain nostalgic charm. But today we’re talking about using jars for something your grandma probably never thought of: fresh salad.
The fundamental concept behind salad in a jar is a healthy grab-and-go option that you can prepare ahead of time. Cut lettuce and other fresh ingredients can store in the fridge several days to a week, so you can make several at once and then keep them on hand.
There are quite a few recipes and techniques for putting salads in jars already out there on the web. You can find some great ideas at My Life in Food, Healthy Happy Life, and My Not So Simple Life. Even Martha Stewart has gotten in on the action, with a how-to video for a Tuna Nicoise Salad made by a New York specialty food shop.
Here are the general principles of salad construction that most seem to follow:
1. “Wet” ingredients, including salad dressing, go into the jar first. This might also include things like olives or tofu. Keep in mind that anything mixed in with the dressing will be marinating the whole time it’s in the fridge, so make it something that will hold up well, like onions or green
pepper, or will soak up flavor, like mushrooms or pasta.
2. Layer other toppings such as chopped veggies, fresh fruit, cheese, meats, nuts, beans, or grains like wild rice.
3. Top off with chopped lettuce, spinach, or other greens.
Voila! When you want to eat your salad, simply dump it into a bowl or onto a plate. The ingredients will magically reverse so that the lettuce is on the bottom and the dressing is on the top. And of course, you don’t need to use lettuce or other greens: Oh She Glows shows how to make a beautiful layered salad with veggies, wheat berries, and quinoa.
If you’re planning to take your salad as a lunch on the run, and prefer to eat it directly out of the jar, then you may want to get more creative with the layering of your ingredients. Think salad parfait, or toss your salad before adding it to the jar.
Straight-sided jars and wide-mouth jars make it easier to tip your salad out onto your serving dish. Also keep in mind that you may want to pick the size of your jar based on the ingredients you use — a lettuce-based salad will be bulkier and may require a pint or quart jar, while a more dense grain- or legume-based salad may fit into a half-pint jar.
Wheat Berry Cranberry Salad
3 cups cooked wheat berries
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 green onion, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
In a small bowl, combine the apples and lemon juice. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the cooked wheat berries, cranberries, green onion, and parsley. Stir in 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette. Stir in apples. Add more vinaigrette
if desired. Pour into a quart mason jar and refrigerate until serving.
Nutty Wild Rice Salad
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
1/4 raspberry vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Combine 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the rice. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain well and cool. Drain the rice and transfer the rice to a large bowl. While the rice is cooling, mix in the dried cranberries, pecans, cashews, green onion, and celery. Pour the vinaigrette over the rice mixture and toss. Season with pepper; mix well. Pour into a quart mason jar and refrigerate until serving.