I figured I would start our first post with picking everyone's brain regarding some food storage issues we have had at our coffee shop. We just turned a year old in November ( YESSS :D ) and are doing really good from our perspective, but there have been some small nagging things that I'd like to get some more opinions on. They may seem pretty mundane, but to the un-initiated, they can be quite frustrating.

We are floating in that limbo right now between having enough produce for our daily needs, and having too much that goes to waste. A lot of this is based on how many times we want to run to the local grocery vs. ordering bulk from a supplier. One of the items we find to be hard to store is lettuce. What is the best way to store lettuce (type of container, tips and tricks, etc) to alleviate the leaves at the bottom of the bag from getting 'gunky'?

As I think of more items, I will throw them out for more discussion.

Thanks for any help!

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Tags: food, handle, handling, health, sanitation

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Comment by Mark McKellier on December 27, 2007 at 2:31pm
Do you source your lettuce locally? Why not get your supplier to give you the lettuce mix still growing? You should be able to keep a weeks worth alive on the window with minimal effort, plus you'll be able to make some great freshness claims to your customers! I'm sure you have living herbs, why not your greens too?
Comment by The Bean Cup on December 27, 2007 at 7:05am
Thanks so much for the response. We definitely use the spring mix, so you were right on with that. I think part of the issue is we receive it about 50% of the time with the perforated bag and the rest of the time with normal bags. I think we will follow up with the vendor to see what the deal is with that, because it does stay fresh A LOT longer with the air holes.

Thanks again!
Comment by Phillip on December 26, 2007 at 5:44pm
Since you are saying the leaves in the bottom of the bag I will assume that you are using a "spring mix" style of lettuce instead of whole head.

I would recommend holding lettuce in a lexan with a damp (not wet) paper towel loosely draped on top. You should also cover the lexan with the accompanying lid. The New Professional Chef 8th Ed. recommends covering with damp paper towels, wash the lettuce that you will need for only one period and make sure to dry it thoroughly such as with a salad spinner.

Harold McGee writes in On Food and Cooking (2004) that leaf and head lettuces keep better closer to 32F/0C than 40F/4C. Soaking the leaves that are wilted in ice water for a brief period will rehydrate them and increase their turgidity. Dress with an oil based vinaigrette only as close to serving as possible because the oil "readily wets the waxy leaf cuticle, percolates through the empty spaces within, and soon makes the leaf dark and sodden."

If your lettuce arrives in specialty plastic bags that have holes for respiration I would recommend keeping them sealed in those bags for as long as possible until you need them. These bags are designed with the respiration rate of the specific leaves in mind and are often filled with a mixture of inert gases that are also specifically mixed for the contained produce.

We would receive our lettuce mix from the farmer on Tuesday's and we would pick more up at the Farmer's Market on Saturday's. The lettuce came in large plastic bags not for respiration, but solely for transport. We would transfer the lettuce to large rectangular storage lexans and cover the top with a damp paper towel and the lid. The leaves would often keep very crisply and full of flavor until long after the new shipment arrived.

Hope my rambling was of some help.

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