The Lettuce Experiment is a comparison test to see if chopped lettuce vacuum-packed in a Mason jar would stay fresh longer than chopped lettuce in a Mason jar that was not vacuum-packed.
In anticipation of post-Superbowl guilt and regret regarding food choices and excess, I’m revisiting the whole salad-in-a-jar idea this week.
Several commenters on the first post of this blog, Salad in a Jar – a Simple Method for Preserving Cut Lettuce, have asked questions about using other methods to preserve lettuce. To validate my claims about why vacuum-packing lettuce is better, I did a scientific experiment right here in my very own lab kitchen.
On Sunday, January 17, I cleaned, chopped (with a regular knife–no plastic knife or hand tearing here because I don’t have time for that) and vacuum-packed Romaine lettuce fresh from the store.
It must be remembered that you can’t really be sure how fresh the lettuce in the store is and I realize it could be a factor. Nevertheless, I pretty much ignored that fact since it is out of my control. I always try to buy the latest date I can find–as I’m sure you do also.
In addition to the vacuum-packed lettuce, I prepared a plastic bag full of lettuce with a paper towel to absorb moisture. I also packed lettuce in quart jars but did not vacuum pack it–simply put the lid on.
What you cannot see here is how moist the lettuce is in the vacuum-packed jars compared to the other lettuce. Which means it’s crisper. Of course, there are no brown edges like the plastic bag lettuce and lettuce from the unsealed jar because there is no oxygen inside a vacuum-packed jar.
Let me reiterate that ALL LETTUCE WAS STORED IN THE REFRIGERATOR for the entire two weeks.
Only Romaine lettuce was tested. I would expect results with other types of lettuce to vary.
Observations gleaned from The Lettuce Experiment:
1. Up until the fourth day, there doesn’t appear to be much difference in the brownness of the edges. However the vacuum-packed lettuce is crisper and more moist compared to the others. Guess you’ll have to take my word for it.
2. Unsealed, cut lettuce goes downhill after four days.
3. If you do not cut the lettuce, the results may be different. However, my whole reason for vacuum-packing lettuce is to make a grab-and-go salad that requires absolutely no preparation on a busy workday morning. Therefore I have NO EXCUSE for not taking a healthy lunch–every single day.
If you have been thinking about purchasing a vacuum-pack machine and aren’t sure if you will use it, here is my advice.
1. If you want to pack lettuce as I have shown, you ABSOLUTELY MUST have a wide-mouth lid attachment. You cannot pack lettuce in plastic bags.
You may also use plastic canisters sold with some systems but my experience with them is bad. They crack. Quickly. Don’t waste your money. Besides, the glass quart jars are cheap and you’ll want several of them.
2. Do you regularly shop at warehouse stores? If so, you can use it to freeze smaller portions. (Remember the plastic bags are expensive to buy.) Vacuum packed food does not turn icy like it does in plastic wrap or regular plastic bags.
3. Do you like to seal your flour, sugar, cornmeal, pasta, rice, etc? Quart and half gallon canning jars work well. Again you will need the wide-mouth lid attachment.
4. Do you like to keep your leftovers? If so, this is a great way to store them in the freezer while maintaining maximum freshness. Avoid the “icies”.
In summary, if you don’t cook much, don’t buy much food, don’t think more than one day ahead about what you will eat, and/or have no interest in storing lettuce or fresh produce longer than 3-4 days, I would not recommend a vacuum-pack machine.
If, on the other hand, you cook a lot, buy in quantity, or want to get serious about eating right even though you have a tight schedule (i.e. salad in a jar), think about buying this Food Saver vacuum-pack machine.
If you came to this post without any prior knowledge of how to do “Salad in a Jar”, check out my video for a quick lesson.
Posts Related to The Lettuce Experiment:
How to Make Salad in a Jar That Lasts a Week–a Video and FAQ
Which Vacuum-Pack Machine Should I Buy to Make Salad in a Jar?
Yes, You Can Use a Handheld Vacuum-Pack Machine to Seal Salad in a Jar
How To Vacuum-Pack Salad in a Jar for Less Than $6 (Plus a Video)
Is a Plastic Knife a Substitute for Vacuum-Packing Lettuce?
Can I Add Other Foods to My Vacuum-Packed Jar of Lettuce?
Salad in a Jar–5 Years Later