Help me make a beet slaw I can refrigerate for weeks.
July 28, 2014 5:06 PM   Subscribe

I want to make a beet slaw for adding to lettuce-based salad. The thing is, I'm unlikely to eat it all immediately, so I want to make a bunch, put it in a jar in the fridge and consume it over a period of weeks. I want to do this without dying of food poisoning, mold eating, or fermented beet alcohol poisoning.

I really like the beet slaw at Freshii, but I can hardly afford a daily $12 salad. The employees tell me that in addition to beets, it contains carrots, cabbage, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I also like a beet salad that I have made myself from raw beet, apple, and carrot + dressing.

However, both the Freshii slaw (I assume) and my own get eaten right away. I searched for recipes online and they all assume you're eating it right away. I want to make some and put it in the fridge and not eat it right away. Ingredients I approve of: beet, carrot, cabbage, apple, pear, fennel and probably others. So my questions are:

1. Are a vinegar and oil mixture enough to ensure something like this won't spoil?
2. Do I need to actually fill the jar with enough vinegar and oil that the vegetables are fully submerged?
2.5 Is there anything I need to know about vinegar:oil ratios? Either for food safety or flavour reasons?
3. Can I include apple or pear or will these brown and get gross?
4. Any other things I should consider including?
5. Should the beets be cooked? Recipes I found only say yes, but the beet salad I've made before is raw and I think the Freshii slaw might have been raw, but it's hard to tell. I assume everything else would be raw?
6. Other tips/thoughts welcome.

I do not want to learn about actual canning nor do I have the necessary equipment for such endeavors.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Weeks? Multiple weeks? And canning it is out? I think no matter what you try to do to it, it would be neither tasty nor safe after about one week.
posted by fancyoats at 5:19 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Well, I was thinking a jam-jar worth and a big spoonful or so in one salad, so yeah, that would probably last a while. And if the consensus is "not safe" then I'm glad I asked.

Sorry both to be a dolt and to threadsit (I won't anymore), but what is it about canning that preserves things after they're opened? I mean I get that while it's sealed you killed the bacteria and sealed them out, but shouldn't canned food last as long after opening as it would have uncanned, since as soon as you open it bacteria and mold will enter?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:23 PM on July 28, 2014

I make a delicious beet salad, keep it in a plastic sealed container (Rubbermaid), and it's lasted three weeks. I have no Food Safety authority, but am a cautious type. Note that I've got some Thor-like spices in my dressing.

For variety I've done 100% beets, but I've found best success with
  • 50% cooked then diced (or sliced) beets
  • 25% cooked then sliced carrots
  • 25% raw grated carrot.
I cook beets in rolling boil water until fork-tender. This is 10 to 30 minutes depending on how old the beets are.
  1. My experience is yes.
  2. No, but my ingredients are cut small so I can vigorously toss and coat all of them.
  3. Lime juice & peanut oil, 2:3 works for me.
  4. I think apple and pear would definitely get grotty, even with lime juice. For that reason I use raisins, dried cranberries, or dried cherries for sweetness
  5. I toast 1 Tbs of cumin seeds for 30 secs, then add 1 tsp of ginger powder. I'm a big ginger fan and I've used 12 - 15 sushi ginger slices sliced again into thin sticks.

posted by Jesse the K at 5:26 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Canned food doesn't last long at all after it's opened. Depending on the food type, it can (no pun intended) be as short as a couple days or up to a week.

I can't think of any way to make beet salad not only tasty but safe except you make a fresh batch each week. If you want to give a try to freezing some, that would be safe, but the texture will change.
posted by vers at 5:31 PM on July 28, 2014

If you just grate (raw, peeled) beets and put in a jar with salt, vinegar and and a little bit of oil it will last for weeks in the fridge. More vinegar than oil.
posted by pjenks at 5:32 PM on July 28, 2014

You could consider making a lacto fermented slaw--basically grate beets and carrots, put them in a jar with a couple tablespoons whey, some salt, and some water. Leave them on the counter for a few days, and then pop them into the fridge. Googling will get you any number of variations on this, and it'll definitely keep an age in the fridge.
posted by MeghanC at 5:38 PM on July 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

You can pickle almost anything without fear, but pickled vegetables are fairly strongly flavored with vinegar compared to a salad. You'd have to try a test batch and see how you feel about it.

MeghanC's suggestion of lactofermentation would give a less harsh flavor (like sauerkraut, for example), but it's less straightforward than pouring a vinegar mixture over a bunch of vegetables.
posted by O9scar at 6:37 PM on July 28, 2014

Lactofermentation is absolutely the way to go. I'm currently working my way through a jar of extra-spicy cabbage/carrot/pepper/cauliflower/can't-remember slaw that's at least 3 months old. I didn't even put it in the fridge until it was a month old.

Slice the stuff super thin, mix it all up with about 2-3% salt, squish the hell out of everything and stuff it into a jar until the juice rises over the top of the stuff. Put some kind of weight on top to keep it submerged and something over the top to keep flies out.

Nothing needs to be cooked beforehand and nothing else needs to be added. I just used left-over jars and haven't bought anything special to help with all this apart from a jam funnel because I'm a bit clumsy getting things from a bowl into a jar.

The taste will develop depending on how long you leave it. Start eating it after about four days and once it's at a point where you really like the taste stick it in the fridge. It's totally up to your own preferences how long you leave it - my partner prefers the taste after about 5 days whereas I prefer it after about a month.

The taste is distinctive and different from the way the ingredients normally taste so you might end up not liking it but it's so easy there's nothing to lose giving it a go!

Sandor Katz's books are great, it was his Art of Fermentation that got me to actually start fermenting stuff to eat. His website has a good overview of things and this is a really good short video that runs over this simple technique.
posted by coleboptera at 8:58 PM on July 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: So I see four main classes of suggestions. I have questions about two of these.

1. Don't do it. (clear enough).

2. Just do it. (also clear).

3. Pickle it. I googled this and it sounds like putting something in vinegar *is* esenitally pickling it. Am I missing something? I love pickled beets, but not pickles. So, if I make the slaw, put it in vinegar and either add oil at eating time or not at all, is that essentially what the "pickle-it" suggestions amount to?

4. Lacto-fermentation: Well here's the thing...I really dislike all fermented beverages: beer, wine, ciders, mead. I know people say all those drinks taste different, but not to me. There's an underlying flavour common to them all and I don't like it. When fruit is a little overripe and a bit has a tiny bit of fermented flesh? Yuck. So will this lacto-fermentation create that fermented flavour that I really dislike?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:11 PM on July 28, 2014

Response by poster: One more question for the fermentation crowd: I just watched the video and I see that it's very much about the salt. Is the flavour salty? It also mentions that the mixture gets acidic: does that mean I'll get the vinegar-y flavour that I would get from dressing? Or are you supposed to add dressing when you serve it? Or?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:20 PM on July 28, 2014

Packing it in vinegar and adding the oil later/not at all is basically pickling it, yeah.

Lacto fermentation is, in my experience, a totally different flavor set than beverage fermentation or vinegar-based pickling. How do you feel about, say, sauerkraut or kimchi? If you like either, it's probably worth trying lacto fermentation. I find that lacto fermented veg don't need dressing, but YMMV. That said, doing a small quantity--like, just a beet or two--wouldn't take much effort, and would let you know if it's something worth pursuing further.
posted by MeghanC at 9:26 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd agree with MeghanC that the taste of the lacto fermentation is a totally different flavour from fermented drinks or vinegar-based pickling - there's nothing about the taste that reminds me of beer/wine/mead etc.
The batches I've made haven't tasted salty at all - as far as I remember I went for about 2.5% salt by weight. It's worth while doing just a small jar to see if the taste appeals to you.
posted by coleboptera at 12:24 AM on July 29, 2014

"Lacto-fermentation" is done by beneficial bacteria (mostly), whereas "fermentation" in the sense of beer, bread, etc is performed by yeast (mostly). So it has a different flavour because different tasty by-products are produced during the fermentation process. I would give it a shot.
posted by quaking fajita at 5:24 AM on July 29, 2014

Try a Polish recipe for cwikla (pronounce chvee-kwah - ch like in chip). It lasts 2 weeks in the fridge, no problem. Some people keep it even longer (I would divide one big batch into several smaller jars then, so that while you eat from one jar the others are kept sealed). It's traditionally finely grated, so more condiment than slaw, but you can slice the beets instead. It's cooked beets, horseradish, salt, vinegar, sugar. Here is one recipe, but there are others with lemon juice and/or onions.

It's a very popular thing, most families in Poland have it for Christmas and other festive occasions. It has a stronger flavor due to the horseradish (helps preserve it) and goes great with cold and warm meats. They even sell it in jars in stores in Poland.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:03 AM on July 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just do it. Whenever I have cabbage or cucumbers and leftover pickle juice (oddly, this happens a lot) I just pack the uncooked vegetables in a plastic tub or mason jar and stick it in the fridge, often for a month or two. Cukes tend to get a little flabby after a while, but nothing has ever spoiled. Right now, I have 2 containers of homegrown cukes soaking in the fridge, one in old bread-and-butter juice (vinegary and sweet) and one in half-sour juice (briny).
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:34 AM on July 29, 2014

Response by poster: Ok, I will try vinegar immersion for sure with the beats, and I might give lacto-fermentation a try with carrots. My Googling suggests that that foods with high starch or sugar content (beets have lots of sugar) do end up fermenting the beer way and can even produce yeast and some people think they taste like beer. However (even though you'd think carrots would have lots of sugar, too), carrots are heavenly even to the beer-taste-haters among us. Thanks, everyone.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:44 PM on July 29, 2014

I would use this refrigerator-pickled Sandwich Slaw recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I've done it with a variety of vegetables and it keeps well for probably at least a month as long as the veggies stay immersed in the liquid.
posted by Empidonax at 12:58 PM on July 29, 2014

Response by poster: Well that was delicious. I don't have whey, so I haven't tried any fermenting yet, but here's the vinegar version I made:

1 large beet
2 large carrots
1 fennel bulb
.5 small purple cabbage

All of this julienned. I tossed it together in a bowl and then stuffed it all in a very large mason jar. Also, because I couldn't decide on raw vs. cooked, I blanched the beets in a strainer after julienning. All else was raw
In a small bowl I mixed about 2tb sugar, 1tsp salt and some grainy mustard with enough balsamic vinegar to dissolve it all. I poured into the jar a bunch of vinegar. Not enough to submerge all the veggies, but lots. Then I poured in the little bowl of balsamic vinegar+. I rotated/inverted etc. etc. the jar a bunch of times to make sure all the veggies were thoroughly soaked. I've been rotating/shaking/inverting. Although I had to shove and press down to get all the veggies in the jar originally, they did decrease over night, so it was about 4/5 full by morning. Also, I think the veggies may have leaked out some liquid, because I think the liquid level was higher by morning.

Today I put a couple of TBS full into my lunch salad. Super delish.

I do wish the beet:otherstuff ratio were higher, but adding a whole other beet would have meant it wouldn't have fit in my jar. Finally, warning: handing this, even pre-vingear will stain your hands a dark purple-red-black. My hands were all stained last night and now, after lunch my index finger and thumb are stained from wiping them along the inside of my bowl so I could get all the little salad bits and lick them off when I was done the salad. Literally finger-lickin' good. It's very acidic. I will probably add some olive oil in a few days when it's thorougly vinegar-soaked.

For reference purposes: Here's an australian gov't site on food safety and preservation in vinegar, including the required ratio of vinegar:food. (I did not bother weighing anything etc. to check this ratio).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:41 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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