Sauerkraut has become a staple in pantries and cupboards across the country, and for good reason: it is delicious, nutritious, and versatile.
But did you know that kraut can spoil?
What happens if you let it sit too long?
We took a closer look at all you need to know about what happens when sauerkraut goes bad.
What Is Sauerkraut?
Sauerkraut is made from shredded raw cabbage that is packed into jars with salt and then left to ferment for several weeks.
During fermentation, the lactic acid produced by the bacteria breaks down the cell walls of the cabbage, making it softer and more digestible.
It also adds flavor and nutrients to the food.
The best way to keep your Sauerkraut fresh is to store it in an airtight container in a cool place.
If you have any leftover Sauerkraut, it should be refrigerated within 2 days of being opened.
Pasteurized Versus Unpasteurized Sauerkraut
The two main types of Sauerkraut are pasteurized and unpasteurized. Both types of Sauerkraut are made from cabbage, however, there are differences between the two.
This type of Sauerkraut is pasteurized before being sold. Pasteurization kills off harmful microorganisms, such as E. coli and salmonella, making it safe to eat.
It also makes the product shelf stable, meaning that it won’t spoil as quickly.
This type of Sauerkraut isn’t pasteurized before being sold, so it still contains naturally occurring bacteria.
These bacteria help to preserve the flavor and texture of the product.
However, unpasteurized Sauerkraut does not necessarily need refrigeration, which means it may spoil more easily than pasteurized products.
What Should You Look For When Buying Sauerkraut?
When buying Sauerkraut, make sure that it is fresh and free of mold. The label should also state whether or not the product was pasteurized.
You might want to avoid buying Sauerkraut that has been stored in plastic containers.
Plastic packaging doesn’t allow air to circulate around the food, which can lead to spoiling.
Instead, buy Sauerkraut that comes in glass jars with lids.
You might also want to check the expiration date on the package. Some brands of Sauerkraut last up to one year if kept properly.
How Long Does Sauerkraut Last?
The shelf life of Sauerkraut depends on how much time it spends in the refrigerator.
When you buy Sauerkraut, you’ll see two dates printed on the jar label.
The first date indicates the expiration date of the product, while the second one shows the “best before” date.
If you want to make sure your Sauerkraut stays fresh longer, follow these tips:
Keep It Cool
When storing Sauerkraut, try to keep it between 40 °F and 45 °F. This helps slow down the growth of harmful bacteria and allows the flavors to develop.
Store It Away From Light
Light exposure causes the lactic acid to break down faster, resulting in a shorter shelf life.
Store your Sauerkraut away from light sources such as windows or overly bright fluorescent lights.
Use Proper Storage Containers
Using the right storage containers is important to ensure your Sauerkraut remains fresh.
Glass jars are ideal since they allow oxygen to circulate around the contents, keeping them fresher than plastic containers.
Avoid using metal containers, as they may react with the acidic content of the Sauerkraut.
Do Not Allow It To Sit Out For Extended Periods
Another way to increase the lifespan of your Sauerkraut is to avoid leaving it to sit out for extended periods of time; this can increase the rate at which the product spoils.
What Are The Risks of Eating Bad Sauerkraut?
So, just what happens if you eat bad Sauerkraut?
There are risks associated with eating spoiled foods, and we took a closer look at some of these below.
Some people are allergic to certain types of bacteria, but most cases of food poisoning come from consuming contaminated food.
Risk Of Illness
Foodborne illnesses are caused by germs that live on the surfaces of fruits and vegetables.
They can grow rapidly once exposed to warm temperatures, moisture, and other favorable conditions.
Once these germs enter your body, they can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headaches, fever, chills, and muscle aches.
High Sodium Levels
Foods that contain high levels of sodium, like Sauerkraut, can increase your risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure).
When these high-sodium foods go bad, they can release large amounts of sodium, causing the levels in your body to rise, and your blood pressure to climb – this can be a danger in the long term.
Other Health Issues
Some people who consume Sauerkraut after it has passed its best report experiencing stomach pains, bloating, heartburn, and flatulence.
In rare instances, people who have consumed fermented foods have reported having symptoms similar to those experienced after taking antibiotics.
How Can I Tell If My Sauerkraut Has Gone Bad?
There are a few signs to look out for that can indicate that your Sauerkraut is past its best, and these include:
A sour smell is an indication that the fermentation process has gone too far. Sour smells can also mean that the kraut contains mold or yeast.
A greenish color could mean that the krauts have been sitting out for too long, allowing their natural sugars to ferment into alcohol.
If your sauerkraut tastes unpleasant or excessively sour, then it’s likely on its way to going bad.
This is because the acids produced during the fermentation process will begin to neutralize the flavors.
If you notice any of these signs, then it’s probably time to toss your old batch and start over!
Sauerkraut is a delicious side dish that can add variety to your diet.
However, it does require some preparation and care when preparing it – and this includes being able to tell when it is past its very best!