My understanding is that pickling destroys Vitamin C. However, apparently Sauerkraut is very rich in Vitamin C and is used by the German Navy to offset scurvy. What am I missing here?

Because early sailors suffered from scurvy and I must assume they brought preserved fruits and vegetables with them but that wasn't enough (or maybe they didn't? But if they did not I do not know why unless Europeans did not know about pickling but that seems unlikely). What is it about Sauerkraut that is different?

  • 2
    Fruits don't last very long, and preserved fruits often lose a lot of their C, depending on the method of preservation. After saurkraut, the other method used for C for sailors was lime juice stored in tanks, and mixed with rum to make grog (hence "limey" for British sailors). Which leads to a story of how the folks on one of the polar expeditions got scurvy ... – FuzzyChef Jan 26 at 6:05

Vitamin C is destroyed by heat and light. If you use a preservation method that relies on heating the sauerkraut at any stage (hot pickling liquid, water bath or pressure canning the jars) then some vitamin C is destroyed. Exactly how much depends on the process: not all vitamin C is lost immediately so different processes will have different amounts of vitamin C left. And if you use a preservation method that doesn't rely on heat like lacto-fermentation, no vitamin C is lost to heat (some may be lost to light, depending on how you store it).

  • 4
    @DKNguyen that article is not only badly written, it simply misreports and misunderstands its sources. Especially the claim for the 600 mg is blatantly wrong, you can click on the study they link and see that it is about equivalent antioxidant activity, not about vitamin C content. I would suggest that you simply disregard the article. – rumtscho Jan 25 at 16:11
  • 3
    @DKNguyen Natural lacto-fermentation does not require heating. It's just cabbage+salt (+sometimes water) and time. – Johanna Jan 25 at 16:28
  • 2
    @DKNguyen - it simply was that they didn't know about the cause of scurvy (actually this had been discovered and forgotten several times over western history). Sauerkraut can also over-ferment if stored improperly, making it inedible. There's a credible answer about this over on the history stack exchange. – bob1 Jan 25 at 23:36
  • 3
    This is veering into discussion - scurvy is only a significant problem after about a month with no fresh food. Ships often didn't sail that long before re-supply. Fresh vegetables won't keep all that long, and most of the vitamins are lost in approx 1 week, even when stored in a fridge. Instead long easily stored items like salt meat, flour etc were taken. Pickles are heavy, hard to seal properly in large volumes for the required fermentation, and I would guess not very efficient in terms of space. – bob1 Jan 26 at 0:02
  • 1
    DKNguyen: it was VERY common. Consider that a trans-pacific sailing trip could take 6 months. That's a long time to be without fresh fruit, veggies, or meat. sciencehistory.org/distillations/the-age-of-scurvy "Scurvy killed more than 2 million sailors between 1492 and 1900" – FuzzyChef Jan 27 at 0:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.