Are you a fan of pickling and canning your own vegetables? If so, you may have come across the terms pickling lime and pickling salt.
While both are used in the canning and pickling process, they are not the same thing. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between pickling lime and pickling salt, and why it’s important to use the right one in your recipes.
So, grab a jar of your favorite pickles and let’s dive in!
Is Pickling Lime The Same As Canning And Pickling Salt?
No, pickling lime is not the same as canning and pickling salt. Pickling lime, also known as slaked lime or hydrated lime, is a chemical compound made of calcium hydroxide. It is often used to harden vegetables like cucumbers in the pickling process and can also be used to treat corn kernels for masa harina flour.
On the other hand, canning and pickling salt is simply pure granulated salt (sodium chloride) without any anti-caking agents or additives that are traditionally added to table salt. It is used to preserve the color and texture of vegetables during the canning process.
While both substances are used in the canning and pickling process, they serve different purposes. Pickling lime is used to harden vegetables, while pickling salt is used to preserve their color and texture.
What Is Pickling Lime?
Pickling lime is a white chemical powder that is used in older pickle recipes to add crispness to the finished product. It works by introducing calcium into the pectin of the food being pickled. This process makes the vegetables firmer and crunchier. Pickling lime is commonly used to pickle cucumbers and other vegetables, and it is also used to treat corn kernels for masa harina flour.
Pickling lime is created by further processing quicklime (calcium oxide) by mixing it with water. The resulting chemical compound is calcium hydroxide, which is food-grade and safe for consumption. However, pickling lime should be used with caution because it is highly alkaline and can change the pH level in the pickle brine, reducing the acidity level. If the acidity level is not high enough, bacteria can begin to grow, which can lead to serious health problems.
To use pickling lime in the pickling process, freshly sliced cucumbers or other vegetables are soaked in a solution of pickling lime for 10 to 24 hours before canning them. During this step, the calcium in pickling lime binds to pectin, making it firmer. However, any foods soaked in pickling lime must be thoroughly rinsed before canning to remove any excess lime absorbed by the vegetables.
While pickling lime works well for adding crispness to pickled vegetables, it is no longer recommended for use because it has been linked to botulism in finished pickles. Therefore, many recipes recommend avoiding pickling lime altogether. Alternatives to pickling lime include soaking vegetables in ice water for four to five hours before pickling or using pickling salt to preserve their color and texture.
If you still want to use pickling lime for canning, make sure you use food-grade calcium hydroxide and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Additionally, make sure you follow all safety tips mentioned later in this article.
What Is Pickling Salt?
Pickling salt, also known as canning salt or preserving salt, is a pure form of granulated salt (sodium chloride) that does not contain any anti-caking agents or additives commonly found in table salt. These additives can make the pickle brine cloudy and affect the appearance and color of the pickled food.
Pickling salt is finer in texture than regular salt, which makes it dissolve more quickly in solutions. Because of its pure form and lack of additives, it is considered the best choice for canning and preserving vegetables. It helps preserve the color and texture of the vegetables during the canning process.
Using regular table salt for pickling is not recommended, as it contains iodine and anti-caking agents that can affect the appearance of the pickled food. However, plain non-iodized table salt can be used as a substitute for pickling salt.
Pickling salt can also be used in cooking and seasoning food, but it may clump more easily due to its lack of anti-caking agents. To prevent clumping, adding some rice to the salt shaker can help absorb excess moisture.
The Role Of Pickling Lime In Pickling And Canning
Pickling lime has been used for generations in the pickling process to give pickles an extra crunch. It works by introducing calcium into the pectin of the food being pickled, which makes it firmer. The traditional canning recipe usually suggests soaking freshly sliced cucumbers or other vegetables in pickling lime for 10 to 24 hours before canning them. During this step, the calcium in pickling lime binds to pectin, making it firmer. However, it is important to note that pickling lime is no longer recommended by many recipes because it has been linked to botulism, a rare but serious illness that can lead to paralysis.
The use of pickling lime can lead to botulism in the finished pickles if not used properly. This is because pickling lime is alkaline and needs to be thoroughly rinsed away from the food being pickled. If not, the alkalinity can weaken the required acidity of the pickling batch and cause harmful bacteria to grow in the canning jar.
To use pickling lime for canning, it is important to use food-grade calcium hydroxide and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. After soaking the vegetables in the pickling lime solution for up to 24 hours, it is essential to rinse them thoroughly at least three times with clear water. Extra rinsing is necessary because the vegetables being pickled can absorb some of the lime from the pickling mixture they were soaked in.
It is also important to note that using grape leaves instead of pickling lime does not enhance crunchiness, according to most authorities. Instead, experts recommend immersing fresh cucumbers in cold water for up to five hours before pickling or using pickling salt as an alternative.
The Role Of Pickling Salt In Pickling And Canning
Pickling salt plays a crucial role in the pickling and canning process. Its primary function is to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the brine, ensuring that the pickled vegetables are safe for consumption. This is especially important if you plan on storing your pickles at room temperature for an extended period.
Unlike table salt, which contains additives that can cloud and darken the pickle brine, pickling salt is pure sodium chloride without any anti-caking agents or additives. Its fine texture allows it to dissolve quickly in solutions, making it the preferred choice for canning and preserving.
In fresh or quick-pack pickles, pickling salt impacts both texture and flavor. Leaving salt out can result in lower quality pickles with texture and flavor issues, but it won’t affect safety. It’s important to note that vinegar provides the safety in these types of pickles, so it’s essential to use vinegar with 5 percent acidity and measure it carefully for a safe product.
In brined and fermented vegetables like old-fashioned dill pickles or sauerkraut, salt is essential for both success and safety. The correct concentration of salt helps promote the growth of desirable lactic acid bacteria that produce the acid for safety, flavor, and texture while preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. It’s crucial not to reduce or eliminate the amount of salt required in a tested recipe when making sauerkraut or fermented pickles.
Differences Between Pickling Lime And Pickling Salt
Here are some key differences between pickling lime and pickling salt:
1. Chemical Composition: Pickling lime is made of calcium hydroxide, while pickling salt is made of sodium chloride.
2. Purpose: Pickling lime is used to harden vegetables like cucumbers in the pickling process, while pickling salt is used to preserve the color and texture of vegetables during the canning process.
3. Risks: Pickling lime has been associated with botulism in finished pickles, so it is no longer recommended for use in canning. On the other hand, pickling salt is considered safe for canning and preserving.
4. Texture: Pickling lime adds crispness and firmness to vegetables, while pickling salt helps maintain their texture during the canning process.
5. Appearance: Pickling lime can make pickle brine appear hazy, while pickling salt does not have this effect.
Importance Of Using The Right Ingredient In Your Recipes
When it comes to canning and pickling, using the right ingredients is crucial for the success and safety of your recipes. As mentioned earlier, using table salt instead of pickling salt can result in cloudy brine and potentially spoil your pickled vegetables. Similarly, using too much pickling lime can neutralize the acidity of your pickling solution and lead to harmful bacterial growth.
To ensure that your recipes turn out as intended, it’s important to use the recommended ingredients and follow the instructions carefully. This includes using canning and pickling salt instead of regular table salt, as well as avoiding pickling lime unless you are confident in your ability to use it safely.
Additionally, it’s important to source high-quality ingredients that are free from additives and anti-caking agents. While kosher salt and sea salt may seem like viable alternatives to canning and pickling salt, they may not have the same crystal size or mineral content, which can affect both the quality and safety of your canned or pickled foods.
Ultimately, taking the time to carefully select and measure your ingredients can make all the difference in the success of your canning and pickling endeavors. By using the right ingredients and following best practices, you can create delicious and safe preserved foods that will last for months to come.