How long does sauerkraut last?
Admit it, you’ve had it happen. Just about everyone has lost something at the back of the fridge at some point. With ferments, how do you know if they’re still good? How long can a ferment last in the refrigerator? In this post, Ashley discusses the shelf life of fermented foods.
Posted by Ashley
How long does fermented food last in the refrigerator? The answer is a lot longer than you think.
Most recipes have you ferment sauerkraut on the counter using a water lock for 6-12 weeks, and then replace the water lock with a regular canning lid before storing in the refrigerator. More often than not, they’ll say “consume within a month or two.”
Every time I read “consume within a month or two” I think to myself, “Wait a minute! Isn’t fermenting supposed to help preserve food? Cabbage keeps for months in the refrigerator all on its own. Shouldn’t ferments last longer?”
How long does sauerkraut last in the refrigerator?
I recently had the opportunity to test it out. An overly polite house guest stayed with us and though they loved our homegrown and homemade food, they felt horrible “eating all our hard work.” At the end of their trip, they tried to replace what they’d eaten by buying us new food from the store.
They replaced our home-harvested honey with store bought honey, our homemade cookies with store bought, and our homemade sauerkraut with locally-made raw kraut. They had such good intentions, but I found it hard to explain that I love making my own kraut. I love visiting our bees and tasting the nuanced flavors of their honey. I love baking cookies!
More than I love making my own homemade goodies, I love sharing them with house guests.
I kindly accepted the gifts, because in many ways our house guest was trying to get the satisfaction of giving in return, and there’s no way I would rob them of that. The problem is, I then quickly forgot about the gifts.
Sure, the cookies were eaten on the counter, but the odd jar of honey got lost in the pantry and the locally-produced raw sauerkraut got shoved to the back of the refrigerator.
A full 18 months later, I found that jar of honey and remembered our house guest. A minute later, the honey reminded me that the kraut must also still be here…
Goodness! I know honey keeps forever, but what about kraut? I’ve never had homemade kraut last that long; my family always gobbles it up. This jar got pushed to the back of the fridge, and though I’d see it there from time to time it always got passed over in favor of homemade. Only now it dawned on me that it’s well over a year old.
Could it possibly still be good?
I cracked the seal and popped it open and…YES! Amazingly, it was perfect without even a hint of off flavors. Though I haven’t tasted this kraut “fresh” to me, it tasted about as good as any newly-made batch, perhaps a bit stronger, but just as lovely.
A bit of quick research online confirmed what my taste buds had told me. A clean, uncontaminated and well-sealed jar can keep for around two full years in the refrigerator.
A quick visual inspection will often tell you if your ferment has kept well. Is there mold starting? Off colors? Strange smells? Finally, give it a quick taste. If it tastes good, you’ve won! Go ahead and use up that ancient ferment, and then get back to the kitchen and make some more!
At Fermentools, we take our sauerkraut seriously. For the best recipes for homemade, lacto-fermented sauerkraut you can make in a jar, check out the following posts:
Ashley is an off-grid homesteader in central Vermont. She is passionate about fermentation, charcuterie, and foraging. Read more about her adventures at PracticalSelfReliance.com.