Sauerkraut will soon be on our minds as our gardens begin to overflow with cabbage. Spring is the best time to raise cabbage here in North Dakota (or so I’m told) and also early fall. It’ll be quite a while yet before the first harvest but I’m thinking about it already.
I get a few questions here and there about canning sauerkraut. Stop! Read this before you start sterilizing your jars and boiling your water. The following advice is true for any ferment including lactofermented pickles.
Only within the last hundred years, this is what people did, cabbage was fermented to perfection and then packed into jars, water bath canned and then set on a shelf to use in the future. What an excellent way to preserve the harvest! Or is it?
There are always pros and cons to each method but one method comes out on top in my opinion.
Pros of Canning:
Shelf life, glorious shelf life. You don’t have to worry about finding a place below 55F to keep your sauerkraut. It can go right on the shelf with your other canned goods and it will last years that way (if you don’t eat it up).
You can age your sauerkraut to perfection. Once your sauerkraut is as sour (or not) as you want it, canning it will stop the fermentation process. It will stop fermenting and won’t get any more sour.
Cons of Canning:
Extra work. Some people have canning down to art but not me. It heats up the house, takes time, effort and space that I don’t really have. I don’t want to can if I don’t have to.
Canned sauerkraut a dead food. Canning kills everything in the jar. All the beneficial bacteria kick the bucket. Enzymes are toast. For shelf life this is a good thing. Killing all those buggies is what allows you to keep the jar on the shelf for years, but those bacteria and enzymes are good for us. They are what populate our gut and keep us healthy.
Is Canned Sauerkraut Bad?
No, it’s not bad at all. In fact it’s still quite good for you. While the beneficial bacteria are all killed off during the canning process, many of the nutrients still remain and the cabbage is in a predigested form making it easier for us to access those nutrients. The lactic acid is still good for your stomach and it still aids in digestion. Loading up your sausage with cooked sauerkraut will help you digest that heavy protein.
Which is the best, canned or raw?
By far, raw sauerkraut has the most nutritional benefit. If you have the means to store it, please, please keep it raw. The beneficial bacteria and enzymes are worth the room in the fridge or cellar (if your cellar is below 55F).
Raw sauerkraut will keep for a minimum of a year and up to 2 years or more when stored at a cold temperature. It’s best kept below 55F but keeping it just above freezing will extend it’s fridge life.
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