Storing Sauerkraut: The Ultimate Guide
After fermenting for about 20 days, sauerkraut will require to be moved into storage so as to maintain its flavor and texture while avoiding over-fermentation. Fortunately, all the equipment you need to store sauerkraut can be found around your kitchen. This guide explores the various methods of storage that can be applied and their effect on the flavor and texture of the sauerkraut.
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What Is Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut refers to thinly shredded cabbages that have undergone aerobic fermentation in a salty pickling liquid. Naturally occurring bacteria and yeast cultures that are found on the surface of the raw cabbages start to break down carbs in the cabbage, releasing lactic acid. This gives the sauerkraut its distinctive mildly acidic flavor notes. After the fermentation period has run its course, the sauerkraut is moved into cold storage to preserve the nutrients, texture, flavor, and probiotic content. The cold temperatures also effectively stop fermentation.
Common Storage Methods Of Sauerkraut
How Long To Store
Canning refers to the process of food preservation, whereby the food content gets processed and sealed in a container airtight.
Canning relies on sealing the sauerkraut in a vacuum like condition which prevents rot and contamination.
Canned sauerkraut can be stored for up to 3 years when stored under cold conditions.
Freezing refers to the transition of a liquid into a solid when exposed to temperatures that are below its freezing point- 32°F (0 °C).
Store-bought sauerkraut can be frozen in their original packaging if it's indicated as freezer friendly.
Sauerkraut can be kept under frozen conditions for up to 3 months, after which you will have to consume it to avoid loss of flavor and texture.
A refrigerator offers cold storage which can be adjusted to fit the required temperature range for each storage need.
The best way to store your sauerkraut is in a kimchi fridge, which is just a standard fridge that's optimized for storing fermented foods at constant optimal temperatures.
Sauerkraut can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Check out our kimchi fridge guide here.
Korean Kimchi Pot
In traditional Korea, Kimchi and sauerkraut were separately stored in large earthenware that was buried in the ground to prevent the fermented food from freezing up during winter months.
Korean kimchi pots (Onggi) have a semi-permeable porous wall that allows oxygen to get into the fermented foods while also adding a ripened quality to the flavor of the sauerkraut.
Sauerkraut can be stored in an onggi for up to 2 months, but once it is opened, it can only be stored for another week.
Sauerkraut can survive room temperature thanks to its acidic nature, which keeps off harmful cultures from infesting the ferment.
You could store both homemade sauerkraut and store-bought varieties on the kitchen counter unless they were bought from the frozen goods section, in which case they should be kept in the freezer.
Store-bought sauerkraut can last up to a week on the kitchen counter once the packaging has been unsealed. Homemade sauerkraut can last for up to 2 weeks on the kitchen counter.
Canning Sauerkraut - While canning typically provides a shelf life of up to 5 years, canned sauerkraut can be stored for up to 3 years, which is significantly longer than jarred sauerkraut, which can be stored in the fridge for up to 8 months.
How To Can Sauerkraut
1. Add the already fermented sauerkraut into your cans and top off with vinegar, which will act as the pickling fluid. Ensure that you leave a 2-inch headspace in each can.
2. Wipe the rims and top if the cans clean.
3. Seal the cans with airtight lids and rings where necessary.
4. Boil water in a deep pot on the stove.
5. Gently lower the sealed cans into the pot of boiling water and ensure that the water is at least 3 inches above the can lids.
6. Process the cans for 20 minutes, after which they should be moved on to a cooling rack.
7. After the cans have cooled, they should be stored in a dark area with cool temperatures preferably in your pantry.
Freezing Sauerkraut - Beyond the freezing point (32°F / 0 °C), the water content in the sauerkraut will begin to freeze solid. Store-bought sauerkraut can be frozen in their original packaging if it's indicated as freezer friendly. If it has already been opened or you want to freeze homemade sauerkraut follow the following steps:
How To Freeze Sauerkraut
1. Pack the sauerkraut into cup-sized portions, which are much easier to manage.
2. Freeze the sauerkraut for 4 hours on a cookie sheet before transferring them into a freezer bag or container.
3. Seal the freezer-safe container and only defrost the required amount for each serving.
Korean Kimchi Pots - Korean kimchi pots are renowned for fermenting flavorful sauerkraut due to their semi-permeable walls.This method, however, should not be used in regions experiencing a warm climate as the kimchi or sauerkraut will just spoil after a couple of days.
How To Store Sauerkraut In Kimchi Pots
1. Add the raw sauerkraut into the earthenware and cover it with a lid.
2. Transfer the pot into a dark storage area and away from other ongoing fermentation projects.
Refrigerating Sauerkraut - The refrigerator offers the most optimal storage conditions for sauerkraut. This is due to the fact that you don't have to drain the sauerkraut before storing it in the fridge so that the fermentation will continue, albeit at a much lower scale. The cold temperatures in the refrigerator are enough to slow down the cultures while also preserving the probiotic content of the sauerkraut.
How To Refrigerate Sauerkraut
1. Ensure that the sauerkraut is packed in fridge safe containers and that they are all equipped with fitting lids.
2. Label the containers to indicate the batch date to avoid mixing up with other stored sauerkraut.
3. Seal the jars of sauerkraut and place them on a shelf in the fridge preferably on the colder compartments.
5 Tips For Storage
Keep track Of Storage Time - Storing sauerkraut does not prevent the eventual loss of flavor and texture that occurs when the food has been under storage for too long. This can be avoided by keeping track of storage time for each batch of sauerkraut; this can be added by clearly labeling the storage date on each container and its expected shelf life.
The Colder The Better - While sauerkraut can be stored under room temperature, colder temperatures help to slow down the fermentation process, ensuring that the sauerkraut retains its flavor and texture for a more extended period. During storage, you should avoid temperature fluctuations and keep the sauerkraut under a constant temperature range to prevent loss of texture every time the sauerkraut thaws before freezing back up.
Keep Track Of The Humidity - Humidity increases the spread of bacteria and yeast spores, which might invade the stored sauerkraut. Avoid storing sauerkraut under humid conditions, especially when unsealed.
Use The Right Storage Material - Not all materials are freezer or fridge safe so ensure that the packaging used can actually hold up under such conditions. This avoids the possibility of the packaging material breaking down under frozen conditions and contaminating the stored sauerkraut.
Storing Fermenting Sauerkraut
Fermenting sauerkraut should be stored in a dark area away from any sources of UV light, such as the sun, as these rays are harmful to the growing probiotics.
Storing fermenting sauerkraut with room temperature also ensures that the bacteria and yeast cultures multiply optimally and break down the carbs as needed.
Fermenting sauerkraut should also be stored away from other ongoing fermentation projects as they may contain different cultures which can contaminate the sauerkraut and cause it to rot.
Storing Opened Sauerkraut
Opened sauerkraut should be kept in the fridge where it can remain fresh for the next week. While storing opened sauerkraut, you should cover the contents to avoid loss of flavor and sogginess before storing the sauerkraut in the fridge.
Does Sauerkraut Need To Be Refrigerated?
Yes, to preserve the flavor and texture of sauerkraut, it needs to be refrigerated while under storage.
How Long Can You Keep Sauerkraut Refrigerated?
Sauerkraut can be kept in the fridge for up to 6 months while still retaining its probiotic and nutritional content.
Can You Get Botulism From Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut that has been contaminated with Clostridium botulinum bacteria culture can cause botulism when consumed.
How Do You Store Fermented Food?
Fermented food is best stored in the fridge as the low temperatures slow down the fermentation process and also prevent the nutrients from breaking down.
How Do You Store Sauerkraut After Opening?
After opening store-bought sauerkraut, you can transfer the food into a fridge ready container and seal airtight before storing it in the refrigerator.
Does Sauerkraut Clean You Out?
Sauerkraut is rich in probiotics, which help to clean out the gut bio. Probiotics have an overall positive cleansing effect on the immune system.
Can Sauerkraut Go Bad?
Sauerkraut can go bad when it over ferments, and the culture runs out of sugar to feed on; consequently, they become dormant, and the drop in lactic acid production can allow harmful external cultures to invade the sauerkraut leading to rot and mold growth.
Is Making Sauerkraut Dangerous?
Not at all, the process of making sauerkraut should be conducted under sanitary conditions to ensure that the final ferment is free of any harmful cultures.
Can Bad Sauerkraut Make You Sick?
Yes, sauerkraut that has gone bad may be contaminated with harmful bacteria, which can result in bacterial infection after consumption and should, therefore, be avoided.
Does Sauerkraut Go Bad If Not Refrigerated?
Yes, when stored at room temperature, the bacteria in the sauerkraut continue to break down carbs making the ferment too sour to consume.
How Long Does An Open Jar Of Sauerkraut Last In The Refrigerator?
An open jar of sauerkraut can last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.