What are Lime Pickles

gardengrl(Northern Virginia)January 4, 2007

I found this recipe in Southern Living, which basically calls for pickling cukes with pickling lime. I've never heard of pickling lime; what is it, how does it taste?

Lime Pickles

7 pounds (4-inch-long) cucumbers

1 cup pickling lime

6 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)

6 cups sugar

2 tablespoons pickling spice

1 tablespoon salt

Cut cucumbers lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Combine cucumber slices, pickling lime, and water to cover in a nonaluminum stockpot; stir well. Cover and let stand at room temperature 12 hours.

Drain cucumbers; rinse with cold water, and return to stockpot. Add fresh cold water to cover, and let stand 1 hour. Repeat procedure 2 times. Drain cucumbers, and return to stockpot.

Combine vinegar and next 3 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour vinegar mixture over cucumbers in stockpot; cover and let stand 6 hours or overnight.

Bring cucumbers and vinegar mixture to a boil over medium heat; cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring gently, 35 minutes.

Pack cucumbers into hot, sterilized jars. Pour vinegar mixture over cucumbers, filling to 1/2 inch from top. Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims. Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands.

Process in boiling-water bath 5 minutes. Refrigerate pickles after opening.

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readinglady(z8 OR)

Pickling lime is calcium hydroxide or slaked lime. In pickles it's a crisping agent.

I've never used pickling lime, though MIL did occasionally for her pickles. It's very important to rinse the product thoroughly (note in the recipe it specifies 3 soaks/rinses) to assure any residual lime is removed from the cucumbers. If lime remains it will reduce the pH of the recipe, compromising the safety of the pickles. I have heard there have been cases of botulism connected with inadequately rinsed lime pickles, but I have no specific instances.

Pickling lime is also caustic, so it has to be handled carefully to avoid burns.

Some Extension sites still provide recipes calling for pickling lime but other Extension sites say not to use it. You can achieve similar results with Pickle Crisp, which is another form of calcium, without the risks.

Regarding flavor, if the cucumbers are adequately rinsed, you shouldn't notice anything beyond the sugar-vinegar-spices. Where pickling lime does make a difference is in products like hominy or masa harina. Authentic tortillas would be made from corn treated with lime.


    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 4:58PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Pickling lime is also still sold under the Mrs. Wages brand. It is caustic and can even stain a stainless steel bowl. A lot of rinsing and scrubbing is required, as it does tend to cling to the cuke skins. Aside from drawing out some of the moisture and setting up a strong alkli based 'barrier' for the vinegar to have difficulty penetrating, its use today isn't as popular as it once was. Suffice to say that Pickle Crisp is much easier to deal with as its just added to each jar prior to filling with boiling brines. Pickle Crisp (from Ball), being a similar pH raising ingredient tends to 'buffer' the acid of vinegars, which seems to help slow down the softening effect acidic brines can cause on cucumbers. Its also used commercially when packing whole tomatoes in cans. It helps the whole tomatoes to hold their shape a little.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 5:48PM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

I agree with using Pickle Crisp. So much easier and not caustic.
I haven't heard of any botulism with the pickling lime. May need to check into that further and see what info I can find.
Ooooh, those can't be any better that Linda Lou's Sweet Pickle Chunks, can they ??? LOL !

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 7:38PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

Linda Lou, I'd be interested in what you find. Several sites, including Clemson and Purdue, mention an increased risk of botulism if the lime isn't sufficiently rinsed. But one site specifically said cases have been recorded without providing documentation. The site seems accurate, but there's just no way to know where that information was obtained from.

Here's the link. Just scroll down to the section "Pickling Lime."


Here is a link that might be useful: Practically Edible - Lime

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 11:13PM
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Lime does not form an 'alkali barrier' or otherwise raise the pH of the pickling solution or the pickles, nor does it 'buffer' the solution. Any of these mechanisms would be dangerous (that's why you're supposed to soak and rinse the lime away repeatedly).

The calcium in the lime reacts with the pectic acid in the cucumber to form calcium pectate, which adds to 'crunchiness'. There is already some calcium pectate in cucumbers and other vegetables - soaking in lime water simply adds to it.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 3:10PM
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MANY years ago my family ate LIME Pickles at my aunt Violet's home in Okla. They were wonderful, and my mom has made them ever since. (I remember her first attempt - she didn't really know about the lime and ended up getting it out of the chicken house where my dad had a big sack of it stored.) I make them today. Lime pickles are very crisp, somewhat transparent, sweet pickles. They make any salad (ham, chicken, potato, tuna) better and are especially good on a cold ham or turkey sandwich. They are labor intensive, but I wouldn't live without them!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 5:06PM
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my mother made "Candied Dill Green Tomato Pickles" using really green sliced green tomatoes and this technique. They were sweet, crisp, almost transluscent and incredibly good. Her recipe was lost and I have tried to recreate it to no avail. The closest I came was a recipe from "Mrs Dulls Southern Cooking" -- (c) 1941, 1968 --which like my mother's recipe did not call for processing. But the spices were all wrong. Yes, I did process them.

Like some of you above I went looking on the web and found the same references to increased danger of botulism but no documentation of actual cases. I found it significant that while both USDA and NCHPF emphasized the necessity of rinsing, neither mentioned botulism:
USDA: "The calcium in lime also improves pickle firmness. Food-grade lime may be used as a lime-water solution for soaking fresh cucumbers 12 to 24 hours before pickling them. However, excess lime neutralizes or removes acidity and so must be washed out to make safe pickles. Drain the lime-water solution, rinse and then re-soak the cucumbers in fresh water for 1 hour. Repeat the rinsing and soaking steps two more times."

I really want to try these pickles again, but I am very cautious and don't want to pass on a flawed recipe.

I am willing to try Pickle Crisp....just hope it works cause it sounds a whole lot easier than my old recipe.

I have a much simplier recipe for similar cucumber pickles:

Annie Margaret's Piquant Pickles

Source: Annie Margaret McLeod Mitchell. These pickles could be called candied dills.

1 quart plain dill pickles
2 cloves garlic quartered
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 cups sugar
4 or 5 dried red peppers

Slice pickles crossways and drain well. Mix with other ingredients and let stand until sugar is dissolved. Stir often. Replace in jar and chill.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 8:17PM
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