I often find myself asking out loud, does sauerkraut go bad? The truth is, I had never seen one of my batches go bad because I always eat it early, but what if it does? This question is especially important if you enjoy fermenting at home and want to make sure things are still edible and healthy.
What is sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is finely chopped cabbage that is fermented through lactic acid bacteria. It is often preserved with salt water too. The result is a product that is sour in flavor and aroma but can last longer. The bacteria will ferment the sugar that is present in the cabbage. The fermentation process results in more nutrients, fiber, and less possibility of spoilage.
If you are wondering, “is sauerkraut good for you?” Yes, it is extremely healthy and full of health benefits. Not only does it promote healthy digestion, but it may also boost immunity and reduce inflammation.
Does sauerkraut go bad?
Yes, sauerkraut goes bad, particularly if left opened for a while. However, there are different types of sauerkraut out there, and how quickly they spoil depends on which one you have at home.
For one, the refrigerated kind that you buy at the grocery store contains healthy live bacteria. It is high in probiotics and comes submerged in the brine. The other kind is often sold in cans or jars that do not need to be refrigerated. Sometimes it is pasteurized, making it shelf-stable but killing off some of the bacteria.
This means that you should always store sauerkraut that has live bacteria in the refrigerator. In an airtight container, it will last between four and six months. In the fridge, your sauerkraut will be at a low temperature that slows down the fermentation process. When left outside at room temperature, your sauerkraut will spoil quicker.
On the other hand, sauerkraut that does not have live bacteria anymore, or is pasteurized, can be left in a dark, cool place. For the most part, this type of product comes in a can. Once you open it, you should try to consume it quickly. Place it in the refrigerator after opening it and eat it within a few days.
Regardless of what sauerkraut you have at home, every time you open and eat some, it is important to check that the cabbage remains submerged in the brine. When you grab some, be sure to press it down, and close the container.
How long before they go bad?
While there is no definite answer, your fresh and live bacteria sauerkraut should be good for at least a few months. If you open the container, it will last up to three months. However, you should make sure that the brine is covering the cabbage at all times.
When it comes to shelf-stable sauerkraut, it will only last a few days after you open it. At most, it will last one week to 10 days, so be sure to check on it and quickly eat it.
One way to stop spoilage or prevent it altogether is to freeze it. You can find out how to do this here, and whether it is a good idea or not. In the end, your sauerkraut will last for much longer in the freezer. The decision depends on what you are looking for.
How do I know if my sauerkraut is bad?
To begin with, you should check the color. Once the cabbage is in contact with air or the brine is no longer covering it, the color will darken. Although this is not a good sign, you can still remove the darkened parts and eat the rest as fast as possible.
Beware if you see any green-blue spots because this means there is now mold growing in your sauerkraut, and there is no turning back.
You can also check the texture, and if they’re spoiled, then this will not be the same. It is possible that it becomes slimy and soft, unlike the usual crunchy.
Another key element in making sure your sauerkraut is edible is the smell. Any decomposing food gives off a weird and foul odor. If this is the case, then your sauerkraut is bad, and you should get rid of it.
While I would never recommend tasting the sauerkraut if there are doubts about its freshness, you could do this when in doubt. A small piece will suffice, and if the taste is immediately unpleasant, then you should not continue eating it.
As a rule of thumb, check your sauerkraut often. If you open it, be sure to keep an eye on it every week. Press them under the brine and keep the container sealed tight. Regardless of what the expiration date is on the label, I recommend you always store your sauerkraut in the fridge.
If you enjoyed reading this article, why not check out this article about How Fermentation Preserve Food?