Stretch your cabbage with these simple storage tips.

By Melanie Fincher
August 03, 2020
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Cabbage is beloved for its versatility and affordability. It's dirt cheap, and this accessibility has made it an integral ingredient in cuisines from all over the world. You can use it for everything from cabbage rolls to coleslaw to stir fry and more. 

But while cabbage is a hero of the produce aisle, it's not indestructible. This leafy green is bound to go bad sometime, and it's not always easy to tell when it has. The good news is, cabbage has a relatively long shelf life in comparison to other fruits and vegetables. The better news is, you can take steps to extend that shelf life even further.

Here's how long cabbage will last when stored properly, and how you can preserve it for future use. 

How to Choose Cabbage

Making your cabbage last starts in the grocery store (or the garden). Cabbage comes in a few different varieties, including red or purple cabbage, green cabbage, Napa cabbage, and Savoy cabbage. Green cabbage is by far the most popular, and it's the kind you're probably used to seeing in the produce aisle (refer to the picture above). 

But regardless of type, cabbage is best when it is heavy for its size and firm to the touch, with leaves that are tightly attached to the head. The tighter the leaves are attached, the less room there is for air to get in the head. You'll also want to avoid cabbage with any signs of bruising, blemishes, wilting, or discoloration, as these can all be signs of aging. 

How to Store a Head of Cabbage 

Cabbage is best stored whole and unrinsed until you're ready to use it. Cutting into it will cause it to lose vitamin C, which will lead to faster spoilage. To store a head of cabbage, place it in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. A head of cabbage will last up two months when stored this way. 

How to Store a Partial Head of Cabbage

If you find yourself left with a partial head of cabbage, think twice before you toss it. While it won't last as long as a whole head, a partial head can still last up to three days after use. To store, tightly wrap the remaining cabbage in plastic wrap and refrigerate in the crisper drawer. Refer to the best-by date for pre-bagged, shredded cabbage. 

How to Freeze and Ferment Cabbage 

Although cabbage has a relatively long shelf life, you can still extend that life even further with these two basic preservation methods: freezing and fermenting.

How to Freeze Cabbage

To freeze cabbage, you'll need to blanch and shock it first. This way it will keep its signature color and crunch. Always start by washing the cabbage. Then, cut it into wedges and blanch the wedges in boiling water for about 90 seconds. 

Immediately shock the wedges in an ice bath and then dry them off. Lay the wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet and flash freeze before transferring to a freezer safe bag. Freeze for up to nine months. To thaw, leave them in the fridge overnight. 

How to Ferment Cabbage

Sauerkraut, or fermented cabbage, is a great topping for hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and more. And making it at home using leftover cabbage is easier than you think. Here's how to make sauerkraut based on this Easy Homemade Sauerkraut recipe from Allrecipes Community Member Ellie:

  1. Mix five pounds of thinly sliced cabbage, 1 thinly sliced onion, 3 tablespoons of sea salt, and three cloves of minced garlic in a bowl. 
  2. Pack the mixture into a food-grade plastic bucket ($24, Amazon). You'll notice the cabbage will start to make its own brine as the salt draws out the water.
  3. Fill a large, plastic bag with water and place it on top of the mixture. This will keep the cabbage from being exposed to air. 
  4. Allow your cabbage to ferment in a cool, dry place for anywhere from one to four weeks, depending on how tangy you like your sauerkraut. The temperature of the room should not go above 70 degrees F. 
  5. Once your mixture has fermented, keep it refrigerated in an airtight container for up to six months. 

Refer to our guide on canning to learn how to can your sauerkraut for even longer use.  

How to Tell if Cabbage Is Spoiled

This is one of the rare instances where a sniff test is helpful. Cabbage with an off smell should be discarded immediately. You'll also be able to tell when cabbage has spoiled if the leaves have become soft and discolored. It's best to refer to the old adage: when in doubt, throw it out.

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This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com.