Sometimes, the process of fermentation renders a food inedible. But for certain foods, fermentation creates a healthy, shelf-stable product that contains tons of good bacteria, also known as probiotics.
Sauerkraut is one of those foods. It is made by combining shredded cabbage and salt and then allowing the mixture to ferment for 3 to 4 weeks.
After the fermentation process is complete, sauerkraut will have developed millions of lactobacillus, a type of “good” bacteria that helps you digest food easily, absorb nutrients, and combat “bad” bacteria that can cause disease.
So, sauerkraut can be considered a superfood. More than that, it can last for years without refrigeration.
Yes, you read that right. Unopened sauerkraut can last up to 3 to 5 years in the pantry. When you open it, it should last for another 4 to 6 months.
But can you freeze sauerkraut to make it last even longer?
Yes! You can freeze sauerkraut and have a supply of this probiotic-rich dish for up to 12 months. Continue reading to learn how you can freeze sauerkraut properly.
Can You Freeze Sauerkraut?
Yes, you can freeze sauerkraut and make it last indefinitely. In most cases, however, long-term storage of sauerkraut is only recommended for up to 12 months.
Unfortunately, sauerkraut loses much of its fresh, crispy texture upon freezing. Why? Because when cabbage freezes, the water inside the plant cells expands and disrupts the structure of the cell walls.
As a result, sauerkraut becomes soft and soggy when it is thawed out. Hence, the difference in texture between fresh sauerkraut and frozen sauerkraut can be night and day.
More than that, freezing stops the growth of good bacteria in sauerkraut and can even kill some of them. Although this won’t make sauerkraut entirely non-beneficial for your gut health, it won’t reach its full potential as a superfood.
All that said, we don’t recommend freezing sauerkraut if you can help it. But if you don’t mind the loss of probiotics and a softer texture, here’s how you can freeze sauerkraut:
How Do You Freeze Sauerkraut?
During fermentation, the “bad” bacteria in sauerkraut slowly get replaced by “good” bacteria. After 3 to 4 weeks, the majority of the bacteria that remain will be the probiotics. (*)
So, to start, make sure that your sauerkraut has completed the fermentation process before freezing it. Otherwise, only the “bad” bacteria will remain in the mixture and cause your sauerkraut to go bad.
We also recommend canning your sauerkraut to make it last longer in the freezer. We will talk more about canning in a later section.
To freeze your sauerkraut, here is what you need to do:
- Put your sauerkraut into an air-tight container like a jar or a freezer-safe plastic box.
- Divide the sauerkraut into portions to make defrosting easier.
- Make sure that the opening is sealed tight.
- Label the container with the current date before putting it in the freezer. We suggest placing it on the bottom layer and at the back of the freezer; this is where the temperature is coldest.
Another good tip is to freeze unopened sauerkraut instead of sauerkraut that has already been used. Sauerkraut that has not been opened will have little to no “bad” bacteria that can cause it to spoil.
When done right, freezing unopened sauerkraut can make it last for more than 3 to 5 years. Opened or homemade sauerkraut (that has not been canned) should last up to 12 months or longer.
How Do You Thaw Frozen Sauerkraut?
Thawing frozen sauerkraut is as easy as freezing it. Simply transfer your sauerkraut into the refrigerator and let it defrost overnight.
For best results, we suggest letting your sauerkraut thaw for a full day. This slow thawing process will ensure that the ice melts properly and won’t cause more damage to the plant cell walls.
How Do You Can Sauerkraut?
If you’re making homemade sauerkraut, it’s best to can it before putting it in the freezer.
No, we don’t mean literally putting your sauerkraut in a can. Canning is a preservation method that involves putting foods in sterilized containers and heating them up to a temperature that is high enough to kill microorganisms.
There are many ways you can food, but the boiling water bath is the easiest. Here’s how it goes:
- Put your sauerkraut in a steel pot and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir frequently and do not let it boil.
- In another steel pot, boil your canning jars for a few minutes to sterilize them. Once they are done, set them on the counter.
- As soon as your sauerkraut is heated through, turn off the heat and transfer the sauerkraut to the jars while they are still hot. Leave about ½ inch at the top. Remove air bubbles with a fork.
- Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean towel and seal it tightly with the lid.
- In a large pot, boil your jars for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- After the boiling process, place your jars on the counter and let them cool down to room temperature before storage.
Can you freeze sauerkraut? Yes, definitely. But should you?
If you want to keep enjoying that fresh, crispy texture of shredded cabbage, we don’t recommend freezing sauerkraut. After all, sauerkraut holds up well in the refrigerator, so freezing it might not be all that necessary.
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