Sauerkraut -- a fermented dish literally meaning 'sour cabbage' in German -- contains plenty of salt. Along with the lactic acid created by the fermentation process, the salt helps keep some harmful bacteria at bay. However, opened sauerkraut still needs to be refrigerated, and will only last from a few days to a week, depending on whether it's homemade or commercially prepared. Unopened, or canned and treated homemade kraut lasts a lot longer.
All Gone Sour
An unopened jar of sauerkraut purchased from a store usually won't have to be refrigerated at all. Commercial sauerkraut is pasteurized. It will stay perfectly edible for up to 12 to 18 months, according to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. However, when you open a jar, it needs to be refrigerated. High-acid products such as sauerkraut last only five to seven days in the refrigerator before you need to discard them.
Home is Where the Sauerkraut is
Homemade sauerkraut must be fully fermented before storing. It should also show no signs of mold or decay. If the mixture is tightly covered, it will stay good in the refrigerator for as long as three months, according to the Penn State Extension service. However, as soon as you uncover the sauerkraut, or transfer it to another loose container, it will only stay good for up to seven days.
If you pack homemade sauerkraut into jars or cans, it will last much longer in the refrigerator. You'll need to heat the mixture very slowly until it starts boiling. This kills off most bacteria. Pour it into clean jars with screw-top metal lids. The liquid should fully cover the sauerkraut. Leave the sealed jars for 10 to 15 minutes in a boiling water bath for extra safety. These jars can be kept in the refrigerator for a year or more.
Even Colder Cabbage
If you want to keep fresh, opened sauerkraut for longer than seven days, try the freezer. Tough sealable freezer bags are better than glass jars in this case. Fill the bags with the cabbage and fermented juice. Be sure to squeeze all of the air from the bag, then seal. These will keep sauerkraut good in the freezer for eight to 12 months, according to the University of Minnesota Extension service.
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