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How long does sauerkraut keep? Or, I’m not a scurvy dog!!

November 4, 2008

Apparently at least 4 years!!  : )  That is the last time I made sauerkraut in any quantity out of green cabbage.  I think I need better lighting in my basement… .  But, bad lighting and plentiful cabbage years have given me a gift and an experiment of sorts.  Now I’m not recommending anyone try this.  I have a cool basement and a cast iron stomach.  But, in Nourishing Traditions there is a little story from Les Aliments Fermentés Traditionnels about Captain Cook.  Apparently on his second trip around the world, 60 barrels of sauerkraut were part of the provisions.  The last barrel was opened after 27 months at sea, and was still perfectly preserved.  Rich in Vitamin C, not one crew member had contracted scurvy, a common ailment of sailors back in the time. 

We have been making kraut in smaller quantities out of red cabbage and eating as we go.  This just got shoved into a dark cool corner of the cellar and forgotten.  Made following the Nourishing Traditions recipe with whey from our raw milk, Celtic sea salt, and Danish Ballhead cabbage.

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I have two gallons of this.  I was curious to open it and see what the condition of the kraut was.  It appeared very yellow compared to fresher kraut.   When I had packed this kraut for cold storage, I had used a plastic sandwich bag to make a better seal with these recycled pickle jars.
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The kraut smelled just like kraut, and where the brine had evaporated there was a small amount of white mold.

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I pulled the mold and the dried-out kraut out with tongs, and then washed the tongs in soapy water before using again to test the ancient brew before me.

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Would I live to milk another day?  Or to post about how good or bad this was?  It smelled so good, and I was hungry.

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With Ruth Less as my witness, I ate it.  The flavor was good, just like the jars of the same batch that had been consumed many moons ago.  The only thing I didn’t care for was the texture.  Is was soft, like it had been canned. 

I still haven’t made any kraut this year, it will probably be the last on my list of preserving for the season.  But, at least I know a bumper crop of cabbage could be kept this way for a long time, without refrigeration, canning or freezing.

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No scurvy dogs here. 😉

44 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2008 10:04 pm

    Not that I really had any doubt, but you’re WAY braver than I am. Good to know that sauerkraut has a shelf life that’s competitive with twinkies… 😉

  2. November 5, 2008 6:04 am

    More power to you and your iron stomach! :o) Personally, I don’t like sauerkraut. My husband on the other hand, LOVES it. His mom tells me she craved it while pregnant with him, so maybe that explains it.

  3. November 5, 2008 7:36 am

    Laura, LOL a friend of mine threw hers on the compost pile, because of discoloration on the top, and when she saw how good the kraut looked, she scooped it back up. I’m not that bad.

    Since I have plenty of cabbage, I will give this to my hens, turkeys and dogs. They love it.

    It was just too soft for my liking.

    Jenny, I think sauerkraut is one of those love it or hate type of foods. You may be onto something there with your husband liking it. 🙂

  4. November 5, 2008 7:51 am

    LOL I did the same thing with old kraut this year and lived to tell the tale. I didn’t have a Ruth-Less witness though.

  5. November 5, 2008 9:45 am

    I haven’t tried making sauerkraut, but I want to. We eat a lot of sauerkraut soup which is DELICIOUS and totally not what you’re thinking. The cooking mellows it. 🙂

  6. November 5, 2008 9:58 am

    Linda, I’m glad I’m not the only one, my friend didn’t tell her hubby though. 😉

    Meadowlark, I was going to post my sauerkraut soup recipe too but was too tired. You’re right, it does mellow it and even non sauerkrauters like it. 🙂 You should try to make some, it is so easy, and when you make it at home it is so much better. Are you posting your recipe on your site?

  7. November 5, 2008 11:05 am

    Oh, I would love that sauerkraut soup recipe. I hope my first batch works. It is smelling briny and sour. But I made it with summer cabbage, not too sure if it will be kind of wimpy of soft because of that. Great to know it will keep for that long!! I was only aiming for 3-4 months.

  8. November 5, 2008 3:24 pm

    NO, you post YOUR recipe and then I’ll pretend like it was mine all along and say “yeah… THAT one”. 🙂 Actually, mine came from an old Frugal Gourmet cookbook. Shame he was a pervert. 😦

  9. November 5, 2008 6:54 pm

    God you must have been hungry. lol Glad you’re still alive. I too have read about Captian Cook and his cabbage storage, good reading.


  10. November 5, 2008 7:26 pm

    Chris, I was hungry, but not hungry enough to eat that whole jar. Just like pickles, the kraut should really keep indefinitely. But, I never would have found out, if I hadn’t forgotten it in that corner. 🙂

  11. November 5, 2008 7:41 pm

    OK Freija and Meadowlark, here is the recipe. It’s from the lodge at Multnomah Falls and sometimes they called it Reuben Soup if it had corned beef, or just Cream of Sauerkraut Soup.

    Cream of Sauerkraut Soup

    1 medium onion, minced
    1 c. celery, minced
    2 T. olive oil or butter
    3 c. sauerkraut
    2 qts chicken stock
    1 1/2 qts half and half
    salt and pepper to taste
    Sausage or Corned Beef for garnish

    Saute onion and celery in oil or butter. Add sauerkraut, mix, and then add chicken stock; simmer 20 minutes. Add hot half and half and thicken with roux to desired consistency.
    Season with salt and pepper, garnish with crumbled sausage, or corned beef.

    Personally I never have half and half, I just use whole milk, and our pork sausage or crumbled bacon for garnish.

  12. November 6, 2008 9:29 am

    I’m going to check this against mine tonight. Mine isn’t a “cream of” so there’s a difference right there. Yum, and sauerkraut soup cook-off! Woo hoooooo

  13. November 6, 2008 9:31 am

    Lookit what I found online:

    1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
    3 slices bacon
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1/2 lb lean pork, diced
    2 generous cups fresh or raw sauerkraut (or sauerkraut in a glass jar, not a tin)
    1 tablespoon tomato paste
    1/2 teaspoon paprika
    3/4 teaspoon caraway seed
    8 cups Basic Brown SOup Stock
    Roux of 1-1/2 tablespoons flour and 1-1/2 tablespoons butter
    pepper and sugar to taste (optional)
    sour cream for garnish

    Brown the onion in the bacon fat, along with the garlic. Add the pork, and cook for about 20 minutes. Add the sauerkraut, tomato paste, paprika, caraway seed, and soup stock. Simmer for about 45 minutes, until the sauerkraut is soft. Thicken with the roux, and correct seasoning (you may wish to add pepper or a pinch of sugar).

    Serve hot with garnish of sour cream. If you wish a milder flavor, cook the soup a bit longer.

  14. November 6, 2008 8:50 pm

    Meadowlark, that one sounds great! Perfect for winter. thanks.

  15. November 13, 2008 8:45 am

    I just made my first batch of sauerkraut yesterday, using red cabbage. It is fermenting as I type this.

    This post was very encouraging to me. Thank you!


  16. B Craig permalink
    November 29, 2008 12:36 pm

    Could anyone please tell me how long an opened jar of commercial sauerkraut will keep in the refrigerator?


    • Deb W permalink
      May 22, 2011 1:10 pm

      Better late than never… but mine’s been in the fridge for well over a year and still exactly the same as the day it was opened.

  17. November 29, 2008 8:13 pm

    Kristianna, your welcome, good luck on your kraut!

    B. Craig, I would say almost indefinitely, but if you are in doubt, throw it out. If it smells OK, it should be, if it smells spoiled, there would be no confusing the spoiled kraut with edible kraut.

  18. December 10, 2008 3:24 pm

    You know, when I cold pack my sauerkraut for canning, it doesn’t lose its crunchiness. I do wish we had cold storage though…time, money and time. Patience cupcake.

  19. Stephanie permalink
    December 12, 2008 3:56 pm

    My neighbor made and canned sour kraut early this summer and gave me a jar. My husband took 10 minutes trying to open it…when he finally did, it bubbled for about 20 seconds…is that right??

  20. December 12, 2008 9:17 pm

    HDR, that’s great it is still crunchy, time, money and time, how true!!

    Stephanie, I’ve never seen it bubble for 20 seconds. That is the hard part about receiving home canned food as a gift, you never really know how much diligence went into the preparation. They always say “When in doubt, throw it out!”

    Hope that helps…

  21. Stephanie permalink
    December 13, 2008 12:14 pm

    matronofhusbandry….thanks so much, it’s in the trash

  22. jackson permalink
    December 14, 2008 12:11 pm

    Hi; Wow, found this posting by accident. My dad made sauerkraut every year from our organic garden cabbages. He made it in one quart jars using pickling salt and caraway seed, cold packing but pouring boiling water into the jar to fill, then putting rubber rings and glass lids on the jars. They were then placed in the coldest part of the basement for up to six months before opening. They always fizzed when opened, which, I think meant that the kraut was alive. We always ate it cold and crunchy in what I thought was the Russian way. It was called kapusta, for cabbage.
    I have started making it in the last few years, with varying success, and this year made about 12 jars which were placed in a cooler immediately, as the basement here is not cold enough. After a month or so I moved it to the cold basement and opened a couple of jars recently. It is perfect!
    I think it crucial that you use organic or unsprayed cabbage so that you have the right mix of bacteria on the surface.
    In the last couple of years I have developed a taste for kimchi, which I think is the Korean version of sauerkraut.

  23. johnman permalink
    June 14, 2009 7:19 pm

    I have just started making sauerkraut and the past couple of batches have been excellent. I only use cabbage and salt, layering them in a crock and sealing it with a plastic bag filled with water.

    My most recent batch was a failure I think. It started to turn brown before a week had passed. The only difference was that I used a carbon steel knife to chop the cabbage. Did this destroy the “good” bacteria or otherwise taint my batch?

    • June 14, 2009 8:14 pm

      I wouldn’t think the knife would have that much bearing on the outcome. If you aren’t growing your own cabbage it could have some kind of contaminant that may have caused that.

  24. Mitch Goody permalink
    February 4, 2010 8:50 am

    02/04/2010: I second the looooong shelf life of saurkraut. I am the consumate bachelor, and just finished a jar of kraut that’s been in my fridge a while, when I noticed the date on it was 12/06. It was as tasty as the day I bought it! No wonder sailors of old took this with them in bulk! Long live saurkraut!

  25. gloria permalink
    March 12, 2010 12:47 pm

    to johnman…. when i owned a pizzeria it was absolutely imperative that a stainless steel knife be used to chop up the mushrooms. any thing other than that tainted the mushrooms. hope this helps.

  26. July 31, 2011 9:28 am

    We both love sauerkraut and I have made it a few times in the past 33 years, but Pop has high blood pressure and must avoid salt as much as possible. I miss the making of it.

  27. Sheryl permalink
    February 16, 2012 4:40 pm

    I have a bottle of sealed Biotta sauerkraut juice that i just opened to drink for my diverticulitis…. just worried cause its out of date by a lot and already drank it

    • Deb Weyrich-Cody permalink
      February 18, 2012 4:16 pm

      So, it’s two days later Cheryl… How’re you feeling – any ill/side effects from your kraut jus? ; )

      • Guy permalink
        August 19, 2012 4:51 pm

        OH NO !!! Deb, it has been about 7 months now and Sheryl never responded. Hope all is well. Just started my very first Kraut ever. Here is South Louisiana not a very popular food, and I never ever ate true kraut live. Just a little canned kraut from the grocier. Looking forward to see this process and end result.

  28. August 24, 2012 9:47 am

    Interesting that the answer I found for my question (Can sauerkraut go bad?) was dated Nov., 2008. That’s the expiration date on the jar I’m planning on opening for dinner. I’m going to take a chance now that I’ve read your posts. This is commerecial-canned, but the pop-up seal is intact. However, it’s never been refrigerated…. always kept in my 100 degree garage in sunny Calif. I’ll post back if it turns out to have killed me.

  29. Gina permalink
    June 2, 2013 12:04 pm

    I make the Nourishing Traditions Recipe quite often with cabbage from my garden. I’m considering canning it. Has anyone tried this? What is the end texture? I much prefer the fresh, crunchy , live version but have an over abundance of cabbage this year. No basement and not enough fridge space. Any advice??

    • June 2, 2013 2:10 pm

      Gina, I’ve never liked the texture canned, but a friend of mine freezes hers and it’s pretty good. I just don’t have enough freezer space 😦

      • Gina permalink
        June 3, 2013 6:18 am

        Thank you. Freezing might work on some. But space is usually limited there as well. I need a root cellar!!! 🙂


  30. twoaussie permalink
    January 2, 2014 2:34 pm

    Would love your sauerkraut recipe.Have tried making it.But it never stays white and crunchy.Please Help.My husband loves it..

    • January 3, 2014 6:42 am

      Twoaussie, nothing special, 5# cabbage combined with 3 Tablespoons of salt, and packed tight in whatever container you please…canning jars, crock… Mine does get a little color to it though, and the crunchy goes away as time goes on. I make about 35# at a time, but maybe if you just did more frequent batches you could keep the crunch 🙂

      • twoaussie permalink
        January 7, 2014 1:05 pm

        have never tried putting it in a crock.Maybe I will try that and see how it goes. Thanks”Love Your Blog”

  31. captancrock permalink
    January 31, 2015 8:43 am

    captancrock ,, I was looking for info on why my new batch turned kind of mushie. At 3 Mo. in the crock at a temp not exceeding 65. I guess I’ll have to freeze it, I wanted to get away from doing that because of space and not really liking the texture. Its really hard to make a reuben with liquid kraut.
    Great Blog.

  32. April 29, 2015 8:29 am

    Interesting, you’re using the german word Sauerkraut 🙂
    I was making some the last year for the first time and from my own cabbage.
    I was proud!

  33. January Hinkle permalink
    July 13, 2016 3:41 pm

    I ran across some sauerkraut dated October 2002, and some from October 2912. Canned from my own garden. The 2002 was lighter in color, but tasted good.I am using it in pork chops and potatoes tonight. The one dated 2012, seem a little different in color,but I remember using some cabbage that had a little green color to it. I have read all the comments on “how long does sauerkraut will last in the pantry” and come to the conclusion that my kraut will be ok. Just smell and taste. The jar I did open was fine. I like the comment that kraut lasts as long as Twinkies. I do not eat Twinkies but the comment was reading all the Pro’s comments. Thanks January

  34. john Bostock permalink
    November 8, 2016 10:42 am

    I have just put my first jar in the fridge but space being limited I will have to use the cellar for the rest as they stop fermenting. Is there a danger of exploding glass?

    • November 10, 2016 9:33 am

      John, I don’t usually jar up until fermenting stops. You might have to burp the jars or leave the lids a little loose.

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