Once upon a time, Anon GF came home one day with a wide assortment of snacks, including a package of Fenway Franks and a package of sauerkraut. This was all so that I'd be properly prepared to watch The Red Sox Season Opener on TV. I'm not sure what year this was, but a bit of research reveals that in 2005, The Red Sox played the NY Yankees (at Yankee Stadium) for the first game of the season. And since this game must have aired on regular broadcast TV in NY, I'm guessing this must have been the year. (Hint: NY stations do not tend to cover the Red Sox opening game when they're playing in Tampa Bay or some other Non-New-York-Team location).
So I'm going to settle on April 3, 2005 as the beginning of this story.
Of course, I thanked Anon GF profusely and I, graciously, didn't point out one minor faux pas, to wit, when attending games at Fenway, one does not customarily get sauerkraut as a condiment; that's more of a NY thing. I'm going by memory here, but as I recall, Fenway Franks (especially at the ballpark), aren't/weren't anything special. And you could top it with anything you wanted, as long as you wanted ketchup, mustard, relish and/or onions. This was not about a gourmet experience; it was about authenticity and verisimilitude.
Since I'd be rooting for the Red Sox, I deemed the sauerkraut inappropriate to the day and shoved that little package of sauerkraut into the cheese drawer. Over time, it ended up in the back corner of the cheese drawer. It ended up on the bottom of the cheese drawer.
Periodically, it would be rediscovered when hunting for that last little chunk of Parmegiano-Reggiano. It was observed each time the refrigerator had a thorough cleaning. It was espied on those occasions when either Anon GF or I investigated the question, "Oooh, what's that smell?"
Invariably, it was once again relegated to the back, bottom corner of the cheese drawer. It's not that I didn't want to eat the sauerkraut, it's just that the only times I remembered we had it were when I was looking for something else. When I was looking for brie, I had no interest in sauerkraut. So it stayed in the drawer.
Yesterday, I was about to grill some bratwursts and a light went off in my head -- Hey, we've got saurkraut! Kraut goes great with bratwurst!
And then, I thought, Damn, this stuff's been in the drawer for an awfully long time.
"No worries", I thought. After all, sauerkraut was created as a preserved food. Here, I had a preserved food in a vacuum-sealed bag, in a refrigerator. Does sauerkraut even have an expiration date? What could be wrong with it?
I decided to look for an expiration date.
My first thought was, this is an American product; does that mean to use it by the 8th day of November, 2009 or does it mean use it by the 9th of November 2008? Since it was the 4th of July, 2012, did that make any fucking difference?
I decided to open the package and smell it. It smelled vinegar-y. I tasted a tiny bit. It tasted fermented. But sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. If it had gone bad, how the hell would I know.
I decided to heat it up. Cold sauerkraut might mask nasty odors that would become evident when boiled. I boiled it in its juices.
It smelled kinda nasty. It smelled kinda nasty exactly the same way all sauerkraut smells kinda nasty. Anon GF hollered from the other room, "What are you cooking? It smells kinda nasty!"
I'm pleased to announce that the brats tasted great fresh off the grill. I ate the sauerkraut and, almost a full day later, I've suffered no adverse reactions. Anon GF had Mac & Cheese. She doesn't like to eat things that smell nasty.