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Q&A

How long does home-made sauerkraut keep in the fridge?

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About a year ago, I attempted to make sauerkraut for the first time following a fermentation process (cabbage, salt, its own extracted juices, but no vinegar). When it seemed to be "done" I ate some of it and put the rest in the fridge. The lid is screwed on tight but not otherwise sealed; I figured it was the fridge's job to keep it from spoiling in the absence of canning. I wasn't very impressed with what I'd made at the time, and I kind of forgot about it in the back of the fridge.

I don't know if months in the fridge will have changed its flavor at all. I'm curious, but want to avert any food-safety issues. I've seen claims that sauerkraut in a jar with a tight-fitting lid will keep "forever" in the fridge (so long as everything stays below the brine line, and I've seen other claims that it keeps for 3-6 months. Where can I find an authoritative answer, or is there some test I can do at home to determine if my sauerkraut is still safe to eat?

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2 answers

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Every batch of naturally fermented foods is unique; you're going to have to check.

That said, the things you should be concerned about:

  • right now: is the sauerkraut acidic enough? Use test strips to look for a pH of 4.6 or less

  • long term: did the fridge temperature stay below 4 degree C?

  • when making it: does the salt content get to between 2 and 3%?

If the pH is low, the fridge stayed cold and it smells like sauerkraut, I would taste a small amount. If it tastes right, it's probably safe. If it smells, tastes or looks wrong in any way, throw it out. If you had a power outage since it went into the fridge, or the fridge doesn't get that cold, throw it out.

In the future, if you want to make long-lasting sauerkraut, pasteurize and can it after it has been fermented for 2-4 weeks.

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In my experience, in less than two weeks, a nasty film starts to form on the top, and at that point, I would throw it out. Normally I start eating it as soon as it's done, and while the flavor does get stronger, it's not something that can be left in a fridge for months.

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