The end of football season always has a bittersweet feeling. Don’t get us wrong, we love the rest of the year too, but we live for tailgate season.
First of all, since sauerkraut is a fermented food, it’s already designed to last a pretty long time! Secondly, you’re in great hands because Cleveland Kitchen is all about the kraut, and we’ll help you through the process of storing your favorite fermented vegetables.
Whether you’re trying to keep fresh a single pouch of Cleveland Kitchen’s delectable krauts, or jars upon jars of the homemade variety, we have all your sauerkraut storage answers!
Can Sauerkraut Go Bad?
Even fermented foods have their “best by” date, but what about sauerkraut? Even if you’ve done a quick Google search, you might be confused by all the different responses you can find on the topic. Hopefully, we can help you clear up some of that confusion.
First things first, the reason it’s hard to find a straight answer on the subject is since your sauerkraut's freshness can change depending on the container you keep it in, the place you store it, and how the sauerkraut itself was prepared. We’ll use two examples to demonstrate the differences; homemade sauerkraut and Cleveland Kitchen’s own kraut!
Kraut #1 - Store-Bought
For the easiest sauerkraut storage methods, simply follow the directions and expiration date of your store-bought krauts!
For instance, on each package of Cleveland Kitchen Kraut, we recommend you keep your kraut refrigerated at all times; before and after opening the pouch, it comes in. Additionally, we have a specific “Best By” date on every pouch to give you a good idea of the time frame you’re working with.
By following both the constant refrigeration and the unique “Best By” dates, you’ll have no problem storing our krauts! Personally, we eat our krauts within a month of opening them, but refrigerated sauerkraut has a pretty stable lifetime, lasting about 4-6 months after it is first opened.
Of course, the “Best By” date won’t be exact every single time, but it can certainly help you keep track of your kraut’s freshness. If you see a change in color, smell, or texture, it’s a sign that your kraut has turned.
For homemade sauerkraut, the answer is a bit more complicated.
Kraut #2 - Homemade
If you prefer the DIY process or simply want to try out a sauerkraut recipe for yourself, your sauerkraut storage will be a tad more complex. You want your kraut to stay fresh, but without a “Best By” date, you might not know how long that will take. To prepare for that, you’ll need to take steps throughout the fermenting process that will allow you to store your kraut without a hitch. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Firstly, when making your sauerkraut, you’ll want to use an airtight, sealable container, such as a mason jar, to store your final product. You don’t want to allow unwanted bacteria into your mixture (you just want the good bacteria!).
Secondly, prepare your ingredients correctly before you start the process, reducing the chance of an error. Though it can seem simple at times, the process of fermenting vegetables is more than just combining shredded cabbage and salt! Make sure to account for any extra flavors, like caraway seeds or fennel, and find a sauerkraut recipe that will give you the correct proportions of all the ingredients.
Finally, when making sauerkraut at home, you must ensure that you cover the cabbage entirely during the fermentation process. Lacto-fermentation (the process that gives us probiotics in fermented sauerkraut) relies on the brine’s salt to kill the harmful bacteria, allowing the good bacteria to grow correctly.
If you do the work before your sauerkraut is finished, storing it will be a piece of cake! In general, your sauerkraut will last at least a month if it’s not refrigerated. After about a month, the kraut tends to dry up, and most of the probiotic benefits vanish. That being said, we don’t recommend leaving your sauerkraut unrefrigerated after you open it, and you should only store it in room temperature conditions if it is in an airtight, sealed container.
The Big Takeaway
Storing sauerkraut doesn’t need to be rocket science, but you should take minor precautions to get the most out of this fermented topping king. Continually monitor your kraut for signs of spoilage, and if you see any changes in color, texture, smell, or taste, it’s probably wise to move on from that kraut.
Our recommendation? Just eat it all before it has a chance to go bad. Easy.
Specialty Krauts, Dressings, and More
At Cleveland Kitchen, we’re working to make fermented foods popular in the United States! With so many probiotic benefits and delicious flavors to explore, our fermented foods are sure to delight your palate and open your mind to the possibilities of more foods!
Check out our line of delicious specialty sauerkrauts, give our kimchi a shot, or crack open one of our fermented salad dressings, and help us create a new fermentation nation!