Sauerkraut is a pickled form of cabbage. It contains thinly shredded cabbage, along with salt, sugar, and vinegar that make up the brine. These ingredients help in the fermentation process and increase its shelf life. But, how long does sauerkraut last? Does sauerkraut go bad?
Store-bought sauerkraut has added chemicals, as well as artificial colors and flavors to extend its shelf life. Homemade sauerkraut, when made carefully and stored under favorable conditions, can last for a year.
We provide you with some tips to make and store sauerkraut to extend its shelf life. And, it is pretty simple. But first, let’s discuss if sauerkraut goes bad.
Does Sauerkraut Go Bad?
Sauerkraut goes bad if it is not stored in a pickle solution. The vinegar acts as an antibacterial agent and a natural preservative.
Insufficient liquid causes the sauerkraut to lose flavor, dry out, and turn brown in color. If you notice any of these, you should throw away the sauerkraut as it has gone bad. A foul smell other than that of vinegar or the presence of mold or pink scum also means that it has gone bad.
Sauerkraut can be used for a few days after the expiry date if there is no bad smell or mold growth.
How to Tell If Sauerkraut Has Gone Bad?
Microbe imbalance or air in the container can make the sauerkraut go bad. The best way to determine if sauerkraut has gone bad is to use your senses.
First, check for mold or scum. If there is any mold present, see if you can remove it. Also, be sure to check if the brine is still good after removing the mold.
Check for unfavorable color change. The white velvety layer on the top doesn’t indicate perished sauerkraut; it could be a layer of yeast. If the brine has turned cloudy, it may be due to the iodine or anti-caking agents found in salt.
Smell the sauerkraut. It shouldn’t smell rancid or emanate a foul odor. If the smell is different than what you expect, it is time to throw out the jar.
If the sauerkraut looks and smells good, you can go ahead and taste it. It shouldn’t taste different than what you are expecting.
The sauerkraut may have turned soft and lost some flavor, but that doesn’t mean you cannot consume it. It is still edible and safe to consume.
How to Store Sauerkraut?
Does sauerkraut go bad if not refrigerated? Let’s find out by looking at five ways to store sauerkraut.
Does canned sauerkraut go bad? Canning includes heating the jars containing sauerkraut to high temperatures. This process destroys the bacteria that can spoil it.
Canning also kills the beneficial bacteria created during the fermentation process. Canned sauerkraut contains fewer nutrients than homemade. The high heat used to sterilize the cans destroys the nutrients in the food.
Fermented sauerkraut if stored at 1.6°C or 36°F can last for a year. Proper refrigeration doesn’t cause a change in the texture, but the flavor may change as it ages.
The back of lower shelves is the best place to store your sauerkraut.
3. Storing in a cool place
Storing sauerkraut in cool places like the in the basement or cold room increases the shelf life of it.
Fermented sauerkraut can last for a year when stored in the basement. The sauerkraut will soften as it ages, so storing it at a cooler temperature will prevent a change in the texture.
4. Kitchen counter
You can leave your jar of sauerkraut on the kitchen counter. The shelf life will depend on the temperature of the home.
Leaving it on the counter will not make the sauerkraut turn bad, but it will soften.
You can also freeze sauerkraut to preserve it. Put the sauerkraut in freezer bags or containers, and leave half an inch of headspace and be sure to remove the excess air. With a vacuum sealer, remove all the air in the bag and freeze it.
Frozen sauerkraut will last from eight to 12 months.
Shelf Life of Sauerkraut
How long does sauerkraut last? It depends on a few factors. If stored under optimal storage conditions, it lasts for months. You should set the temperature of your refrigerator to 36°F or below.
Store it in a sealed glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Avoid a metal lid as it may rust due to the acidity in the sauerkraut.
Canned Sauerkraut Has a Longer Shelf Life
Canned sauerkraut has a better shelf life. Tests done on canned foods by the U.S. Army determined that you can safely consume canned foods for decades, even after the expiration date.
Canned sauerkraut should be frozen after use to extend its shelf life.
Shelf Life of Opened Sauerkraut Depends on Storage Conditions
Sauerkraut may turn soggy, and there may be a change in the flavor if it is not stored properly. If it is exposed to air, it can oxidize. So, you should push the sauerkraut in the brine so that it’s completely immersed.
If the sauerkraut isn’t completely soaked in the brine and exposed to air, it may darken. In such instances, you can throw away the darkened sauerkraut and use the rest.
Homemade sauerkraut can be preserved for more than a year if you put the sealed jars in a boiling water bath.
Final Word on Sauerkraut
So, does sauerkraut go bad? Yes, it can perish under certain conditions. However, you can check the sauerkraut with some simple tests.
But why to wait until it turns bad? Can it, freeze it, or refrigerate it to increase the shelf life and enjoy your sauerkraut throughout the year. So, make it a part of your diet at least a couple of times a week and enjoy its health benefits.
“How Long Does Sauerkraut, Pickles, or other Ferments Last?” The Fermentation Podcast; http://fermentationpodcast.com/how-long-sauerkraut-pickles-ferments-last/, last accessed June 7, 2017.
Wallace, M., “How Long Is Sauerkraut Good to Eat if Refrigerated?” Our Everyday Life; http://oureverydaylife.com/long-sauerkraut-good-eat-refrigerated-31416.html/, last accessed June 7, 2017
Howe, H., “5 Ways to Store Fermented Sauerkraut,” Make Sauerkraut, November 17, 2016; https://www.makesauerkraut.com/storing-sauerkraut/, last accessed June 7, 2017.
Howe, H., “Has Your Sauerkraut Fermentation Gone Bad? Three Fermentation Rules and Many Troubleshooting Tips,” Make Sauerkraut!, September 26, 2014; https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sauerkraut-fermentation-gone-bad-troubleshooting-tips/