Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage whose flavor has helped it spread to more and more places worldwide and its possible health benefits from lactic acid bacteria. However, what brings us together today is how sauerkraut is preserved.
Sauerkraut can be left at room temperature if it goes through a pasteurization process for about 3 or 6 months. Otherwise, it should be refrigerated for up to a year or frozen for 1 or 2 years.
If you would like to learn how to preserve sauerkraut, just read on.
Store sauerkraut at room temperature
Sauerkraut, being a fermented food, is sensitive to high temperatures. Therefore, if the average temperature of the place you live exceeds 18°C (68°F), it is not recommended to leave it outside, as it will continue to ferment and become a super acid product. In addition, by fermenting for too long, the bacteria will eat all available carbohydrates and die from lack of food.
Therefore, the only way to store sauerkraut at room temperature is to pasteurize it, which is a process that eliminates all bacteria, and therefore, many consider it harmful.
Homemade sauerkraut is known for having many probiotics and being an excellent food for the digestive system. Therefore, pasteurization is not a good option, although commercial brands pasteurize it before selling.
To pasteurize and store the sauerkraut once it is ready, you have to do the following:
- Step 1: Place the glass jars in a pot.
Place the jars in a high pot with a thick bottom because you will boil them.
- Step 2: Bring water to a boil.
Add enough water to cover the jars and boil. I recommend placing a tea towel at the bottom of the pot so that the jars do not collide with each other or against the pot.
- Step 3: Remove the jars with tweezers.
After this time, the jars are carefully removed with tweezers and placed on a rack until they cool.
- Step 4: Tag.
Place a label with the day you performed the pasteurization, so you will know how long it has been stored.
- Step 5: Store in a dark place.
Place the jar with sauerkraut where the light does not stick directly; it must also be fresh and dry. This way, the sealed sauerkraut can be at room temperature for 3 to 6 months.
If you plan to grab sauerkraut regularly, so you will uncover the jar several times, you should store it in the fridge.
How to keep sauerkraut in the fridge?
Usually, when sauerkraut is homemade, keeping it in the fridge is always recommended since the cold will help preserve it for a long time without changing its texture.
In addition, if you refrigerate the sauerkraut, pasteurizing it will not be necessary since the cold temperatures will decrease the fermentation rate.
IMPORTANT: IF THE SAUERKRAUT IS HOMEMADE IN A GLASS JAR, STORE IT DIRECTLY IN THE FRIDGE.
To store sauerkraut in the fridge, follow these tips:
- Step 1: Sterilize the containers where you will keep the sauerkraut.
In a pot with a thick bottom, bring water to a boil. Place a rack or a clean kitchen cloth at the bottom of the pot to prevent the jars from colliding with the base.
When the water is boiling, carefully introduce the jars with their respective lids with tweezers. Use glass jars with an airtight lid.
- Step 2: Remove the jars with tweezers.
Remove the containers with their respective lids using tweezers, place them on a grid or paper towels, and leave them until they dry completely.
- Step 3: Pass the sauerkraut to some glass jars.
Flatten the sauerkraut well in the container and leave at least three fingers of free space.
- Step 4: Pour the water where the sauerkraut was fermented.
Fermented water will help preserve sauerkraut better. If you don’t have enough water, you can add brine. To do this, boil water for a few minutes with a tablespoon salt.
The important thing is that the water must exceed the sauerkraut by at least one finger.
- Step 5: Tag.
Stick a label with the storage date to know how long it has been refrigerated.
- Step 6: Store the jar with sauerkraut in the fridge.
I recommend you place the jars at the bottom of the fridge so that the refrigerated sauerkraut will remain in good condition for a whole year. 
How to freeze sauerkraut
Can sauerkraut be frozen? Yes. However, it is not a method that is recommended to apply since the freezing and thawing would affect the texture of the sauerkraut and a little the flavor.
Besides, since sauerkraut lasts so long in the fridge, it does not seem necessary to freeze it. However, this could be an option if your fridge is not working well or has broken down.
To freeze the sauerkraut, follow these instructions:
- Step 1: Pass the sauerkraut into the airtight bag.
You can also use plastic containers, but the important thing is that it is resistant to the freezer. Therefore, freezing sauerkraut in glass jars is not advisable because they could break.
It is also not recommended to fill the bag or container, since when frozen the sauerkraut expands.
- Step 2: Do not add liquid.
In the other sections, it was requested to keep the sauerkraut inside the water where it was fermented, but in this case, it is not necessary. Also, if it freezes with water, it could damage rather than preserve it.
- Step 3: Tag.
If you used bags to store the sauerkraut, put them all inside another larger bag. Then write on it the date of storage. You can also stick a label over the bag or container.
- Step 4: Save the sauerkraut in the freezer.
If you follow these tips, you may freeze sauerkraut for a year or two. In fact, it might remain frozen indefinitely, but the more time you spend inside the freezer, the sauerkraut will lose its consistency.
To defrost, leave it overnight in the fridge. You can also leave it at room temperature for a few hours, but it is better to thaw it in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, thawed sauerkraut cannot be re-frozen, although it could be refrigerated for about three months.
How do you know if sauerkraut is spoiled?
To know if the sauerkraut is spoiled, it is convenient to check the jar where you stored it. If it has mold, that is, black or green spots, or even whitish, it means that harmful bacteria grew and is not suitable for consumption.
It should also not be eaten if it smells or tastes bad, if you notice any strange or disgusting smell or taste, it is best to throw it away. Also, if the sauerkraut liquid is dried completely, it is not safe to eat it.
It is not a good sign if suddenly the liquid where the sauerkraut is preserved creates a foam on the surface.
Why is sauerkraut spoiled?
The main reason for the decomposition of sauerkraut is poor storage and fermentation conditions. Homemade sauerkraut has beneficial bacteria for the body, known as probiotics, so if not stored correctly, the proliferation of bacteria would get out of control.
In addition, poor storage conditions would also cause the brine where sauerkraut is preserved to dry faster.
Temperature variations also affect sauerkraut because they change the fermentation process, which could affect the environment leading to a proliferation of harmful bacteria.
How long does sauerkraut last?
|Sauerkraut at room temperature||3 – 6 months|
|Refrigerated sauerkraut||1 year|
|Frozen sauerkraut||1 – 2 years|
|Thawed sauerkraut in the fridge||3 months|
What is the best way to preserve sauerkraut?
The best way to preserve sauerkraut is by keeping it inside the fridge. It will remain stable and in good condition, especially if you live in a warm place.
Sauerkraut can be left at room temperature only if a pasteurization process is carried out, but that would kill the probiotics; therefore, I don’t recommend it.
Freezing sauerkraut should not be an option since you can store the sauerkraut in the fridge for the long term without affecting its consistency.
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