Sauerkraut is definitely a unique taste, but for the people who like it, it is one of the best dishes that exist.
With a dish as distinctive as sauerkraut, it is unlikely that you will use large portions of it regularly which could lead to this delicacy going to waste.
If you have considered this, you might have asked yourself ‘Can I freeze Sauerkraut?’. If you have found yourself asking this, you are in the right place.
There’s no need to worry about your sauerkraut going to waste because we’ve put together this guide which is full of everything you need to know about sauerkraut. Including whether or not it can be frozen and so much more.
What is sauerkraut?
If there is one thing that is certain about sauerkraut, it is that it’s an acquired taste.
A lot of people have avoided trying it due to its unusual name and reputation for being a strange taste. But a lot of people really enjoy it, so what exactly is sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is made of cabbage. To make sauerkraut, the cabbage is left uncooked, and cut incredibly thin.
It is one of many dishes that is left to ferment before it is eaten, and due to the fermentation process, a lot of people confuse sauerkraut with kimchi. However, these are two completely different dishes.
Its name ‘sauerkraut’ is German and literally translates as ‘sour cabbage’ which gives you a good clue of what sort of taste to expect from this dish.
Traditionally, dishes that have fermented would be viewed as ‘gone off’ or unsafe to eat, however, sauerkraut is actually viewed as a delicacy. While it is inappropriate to ferment some foods to be eaten at a later date, for others fermentation is an excellent way to preserve that dish.
As sauerkraut has its root in a time long before the discovery of electricity and the invention of refrigeration, it is unsurprising that the process of fermentation has been used.
Although cabbage can now be kept fresh in the refrigerator, sauerkraut is now a dish within its own rights and its unique sour taste means that a lot of people specifically choose sauerkraut to eat.
It has been a popular dish in the United States since at least the 1800s and despite a small name change during World War One, it is still a popular choice today.
You can buy sauerkraut in most grocery stores, and failing that there are lots of different recipes which you can follow to make your own at home.
With a dish as yummy as sauerkraut, the last thing that you want is for it to go to waste, so let’s take a look at how you can preserve the shelf life of your sauerkraut.
Can you freeze sauerkraut?
If you want to preserve the shelf life of any food, the go-to method is to freeze it. The invention of the freezer is one of the most groundbreaking as it completely changed our relationship with food.
While the refrigerator is great for preserving food in the short-term, a freezer allows you to extend the shelf life of normally perishable items by months, allowing you to enjoy seasonal fruit and vegetables off-season.
We have already mentioned that sauerkraut has a fairly long shelf life due to its fermented nature, but can you freeze sauerkraut to extend the shelf life of it?
The answer is yes, sauerkraut can be frozen if you wish to do so. A lot of people believe that sauerkraut is unable to go off as it is already fermented, however, this is not the case.
While it has a long shelf life, this drops dramatically once you open a jar of sauerkraut. Once you have opened that jar, you are exposing the sauerkraut to lots of different types of bacteria which can impact the shelf life of it.
So if you are sitting there, reading this, thinking 'Why would you want to freeze sauerkraut?' There’s your answer. Freezing sauerkraut is not the best way to preserve its shelf life if the jar you have bought is unopened.
But if you rarely use sauerkraut and do not want this delicious dish to go off in the time between, freezing is an excellent way to keep it fresh for longer.
Why Would You Freeze Sauerkraut?
Now that we have established that sauerkraut can be frozen, let’s take a look at what you need to do to prepare the fermented cabbage for freezing.
The practice of freezing sauerkraut is fairly controversial. Especially to older generations who will remember the days when sauerkraut was kept in a dish on the countertop for months on end, and only dipped into when it was needed.
Nowadays, food hygiene is a lot more important, and the fear of food poisoning is a lot bigger.
1 in 6 Americans fall ill with food poisoning every year, in some cases, this can cause hospitalization or even death. So ensuring that food is stored properly and safely is incredibly important.
Sauerkraut is an ingredient that you will not use in every meal, which is why freezing it is so popular.
You could easily go days or even weeks between including sauerkraut in a dish, and during this time your sauerkraut will be exposed to bacteria which could cause it to go off.
Sauerkraut can be frozen, and actually freezes incredibly well. It can retain both its flavor and texture and tastes almost identical once defrosted as it does before freezing.
The key to freezing sauerkraut is all in the preparation and ensuring that the sauerkraut is fresh when you freeze it. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the process you need to follow to freeze your sauerkraut.
The main reason that you will want to freeze sauerkraut is that you have either bought too much or have made too much, and find yourself with lots leftover that you don’t want to go to waste.
As you will be aware, sauerkraut has a long shelf life, however, if you use it rarely, its long shelf life may appear short.
You may also choose to freeze your sauerkraut if it is close to its use-by date and you know that you will not use it in time. However, if you are freezing your sauerkraut because of this reason you must check that the sauerkraut is fresh before freezing.
The process of determining whether or not your sauerkraut is fresh is easy. While sauerkraut is an acquired taste, its scent is not too strong. That is until it has gone bad.
You will be able to tell that your sauerkraut is not safe to eat because it will spell repulsive. Sauerkraut that has gone bad emits a strong smell of rotting, notifying you immediately that it is past its best.
You will also be able to tell if the sauerkraut has gone off by looking at the cabbage.
Both the color and the texture of the sauerkraut that has turned will be different from the sauerkraut that is fresh, so this is an easy way to confirm if it has gone off.
How to Freeze Sauerkraut
Now that we’ve established why you may choose to freeze sauerkraut, let’s look at how you go about freezing it.
First, let’s talk about homemade sauerkraut. If you have made your own sauerkraut, you will probably notice early on that you have made more than you expected. For the best results, we would recommend freezing immediately.
Similarly, we would recommend freezing store-bought sauerkraut as soon as possible too. That being said, it is perfectly safe to keep your opened jar of sauerkraut in the fridge for a couple of weeks before freezing if you wish.
As we have mentioned, the most important thing is that the sauerkraut is still fresh when you freeze it.
To freeze sauerkraut, you must transfer it from the jar (if store-bought) into an airtight, freezer-safe container. You can do this by simply scooping it out with a spoon, or pouring it from one bowl into the container if your sauerkraut is homemade.
Once you have done that, simply seal the container, label it with the date of storage and place it in the freezer.
Alternatively, you may choose to freeze your sauerkraut in portions ready to use after it has defrosted. You could do this by transferring the sauerkraut into separate containers or freezer bags and dividing them into portions as you go.
You will know how much sauerkraut you usually use in one serving so divide it into portions of this size to avoid waste in the future.
Finally, you may also wish to freeze sauerkraut that has been cooked. Cooked sauerkraut is even better to freeze than raw sauerkraut because it contains less liquid. This means that there is less chance of the sauerkraut becoming altered by the freezing process.
The process of freezing cooked sauerkraut is exactly the same as normal. All you need to do is transfer it into a freezer bag or airtight container, add a label then place it in your freezer for future use.
How to Defrost Sauerkraut
Like most things, freezing sauerkraut is a simple process, but what about defrosting it?
Unsurprisingly, defrosting sauerkraut ready for future use is very easy, and you have a few options of how to do this. These methods all take varying amounts of time, so you should use the method that suits you best.
Like with most dishes that have been frozen, the best way to defrost sauerkraut is to do it slowly. This limits any changes to the taste and texture of the sauerkraut allowing you to enjoy it as if it were fresh.
To do this, all you need to do is transfer your container or bag of sauerkraut from the freezer into the fridge. We would recommend doing this the night before you want to use the sauerkraut as it can sometimes take up to 24 hours for the sauerkraut to defrost.
Once it has thawed, the sauerkraut will be good to use. Alternatively, you can store it in the fridge for up to 5 days before using it.
Please note, this is the only method that does not require you to use the sauerkraut immediately after it has thawed.
If you do not have the time to wait, there are some other methods which you can follow. If you wish, you can take your container of sauerkraut out of the freezer and leave it to defrost on the countertop for a few hours.
If this is still too slow, you can speed up the process by placing the container in a cold bowl of water.
Alternatively, you can defrost your sauerkraut in the microwave. You should do this by heating it in small doses until it has all melted. However, both of these methods require you to use the sauerkraut immediately.
Finally, if you want to use your sauerkraut in a cooked dish, there is no need to defrost it. All you need to do is add the frozen sauerkraut to the recipe and add a couple of minutes to the cooking time to factor in defrosting.
Once your dish is cooked, the sauerkraut will be safe to eat.
In short, yes sauerkraut can be frozen. In fact, it is one of few foods which are virtually unchanged by freezing.
However, it does have a long shelf life outside of the freezer so you should consider this before choosing to freeze it.