Spill your beans and save my stomach!
January 10, 2007 10:01 PM   Subscribe

What is the "shelf-life" of my homemade mixed-bean salad? Ingredients, recipes, and other curiosities follow, so please check out

I have drained, rinsed, and submerged:

1 can of kidney beans
1 can of garbanzo beans
1 can of cannellini beans
1 can of pinto beans, and
1 can of black-eyed peas

in enough white-balsamic vinegar that the entire bean-salad is covered. I am keeping the mix in a plastic container (specifically: Ikea tupperware in my refrigerator.

My question is: How quickly will this bean-salad spoil? What is the “shelf-life” of it, so to speak? Is it good indefinitely (as it is submerged in vinegar and refrigerated), or is there a specific time-frame during which it is edible, and then must be promptly thrown away lest I suffer the wrath of the gastronomic gods?

If there is a time limit, is it a week? two weeks? a month?

After enduring numerous bouts of stomach-related sickness, I am ever the one to err on the side of caution; however, I don’t want to be wasteful, so I’d like to avoid throwing this delicious mix out prematurely. Suggestions?

I thank you on my belly’s behalf.
posted by numinous to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have certainly the fear of food poisoning, and make Three Bean Salad a lot. I don't use nearly as much vinegar as that, but I would still likely find it okay by the visual and olfactory tests till around the two week mark. However, it never lasts longer than that... so I can't speak definitively.

But if you have the stuff submerged in vinegar, for pete's sake, that's pickling! And pickling was devised for sailors and pioneers. They didn't refrigerate the stiff, even. Vinegar is a curative. I always remember what I once heard: that the mayo is the last thing to go bad in a chicken/tuna/egg salad, etc. on a picnic, because it's vinegared. I think your worries are overblown.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:37 PM on January 10, 2007

"... But if you have the stuff submerged in vinegar, for pete's sake, that's pickling! ..."
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:37 AM EST on January 11

I think most food scientists would argue that pickling is usually thought of as more a brine based process (salt and water being the usual minimum ingredients of a pickling brine), than an acid based process. But I suppose that's nearly a distinction without a difference, for the OP's sake. Probably, if numinous added a small amount of salt to the mix, the effectiveness of the solution as a preservative would be better. And if numinous chooses canned beans with high levels of approved food preservatives, the shelf life of the salted, vinegared, preservative laced mix, kept tightly covered in a cold refrigerator in a sterilized storage container could easily be several weeks.

An even longer term solution might be to make great batches of the stuff, and divide weekly portions of it into ziplock bags to be stored in the freezer, for future use. This might, however, have detrimental effects on the texture of the stuff, and would argue against very high levels of salt in the brine.
posted by paulsc at 2:13 AM on January 11, 2007

I make a similar salad and give it 10 days until I toss it.
posted by meerkatty at 3:57 AM on January 11, 2007

This article doesn't specifically cover your bean salad. However, it does point out that over 300 people have been made sick/died (?) from green bean salad. due to Bacillus cereus.

It does point out that refrigeration does not necessarily keep food safe, but states that food (prepared correctly) can last up to 5–7 days at 5 oC or less.

This link suggests that 3 to 5 days is the maximum.

And this one states that even a commercial wash preparation is not better than water at removing Shigella, an emerging pathogen known to be found in bean salads.

Having read all this, I have resolved to continue not to eat bean salad.
posted by b33j at 4:53 AM on January 11, 2007

There's nothing in that salad that would make you sick when it got old (ie no meat or eggs or dairy), the beans will probably just get mushy or brown. It'll just have an unpleasant texture.

Human kind has spent millenia taking a small bite of their leftover bean salad to see if it's okay, and very few people have died as a result. Methinks you are are being a big worrywart.
posted by Kololo at 12:03 PM on January 11, 2007

Also, you might want to investigate a new bean salad recipe. I mean, all you've got there is beans and vinegar. How good could that possibly taste?

Throw in some chopped peppers or tomatoes or cucumbers at least.
posted by Kololo at 12:05 PM on January 11, 2007

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