Pickling Lime Questions

simplicitygardens(z8 pacific N.W.)September 1, 2009

I am planning to pickle Jalepeno Rings soon with the recipe given at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It calls for soaking the cut pepper rings in a solution of 1 1/2 gallon water with 1 1/2 cup pickling lime.

Is this the Cal Lime you can buy in bulk at Mexican Grocery stores very inexpensively? Also, does this step make a less 'healthy' end product? I think of my pickled things as being an occasional treat anyway and I realize the peppers are rinsed and soaked repeatedly after the lime bath. Just wondered if anyone has an opinion on this?

Thanks for any feedback, Abhaya

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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

The lime used is meant to improve the crispness of pickles. They soften due to the long term storage in vinegar and salt. Ball used to offer lime, but discontiuned it a few years ago. Its nasty to work with and can even stain stainless steel. Your supposed to soak vegetables in it over night in the fridge. It never dissolves but instead settles to the bottom, and clings to foods. If used to make pickled item, it must be thoroughly rinsed off repeatedly. A better choice for today is Ball PIckle Crisp, or the generic substitute called CALCIUM CHLORIDE. The product must be food grade. There are numerous posts here in the forum for pickling lime and its substitute of calcium chloride. The stuff can either be added to each jar of pickles, or used as a presoak, but rinses off much easier. Within the many recent threads of this forum, you can also find the sources for the calcium chloride, and how much to use per jar. Mrs. Wages still offers pickling lime, but its use in home made pickles has been less popular due to its hazardous effects. Ball stopped making the Pickle Crisp product, but may decide to offer it again.
Please use the SEARCH feature to see all the lime and Pickle Crisp threads. Simply type in the keyword 'pickling lime' in the seach box.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 2:41AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Is this the Cal Lime you can buy in bulk at Mexican Grocery stores very inexpensively?

Can't say for sure but I suspect it isn't the same. As Ken said true pickling lime is sold most any place canning supplies are sold as well as in the spices seasoning section of grocery stores but it is labeled "pickling lime".

Ken already discussed the decline in using and the reasons for it it but many still do use it in a few recipes. Is it "less healthy"? No, not if well and repeatedly rinsed. It is just difficult to work with as it is very caustic.

We used to have lots of discussions here about it but most of them have been bumped off the forum as I only found 1 with a search. If you plan to do lots of pickling it's best to order some calcium chloride.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 9:17AM
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Linda_Lou(SW Wa.)

I don't know for sure, but I don't think that lime is the same.
I agree, skip the pickling lime and order some calcium chloride. It is in all the commercial pickles, etc. Even tomatoes, potatoes, all sorts of things. Not caustic like pickling lime and much easier. Just add some to each jar.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 2:12PM
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readinglady(z8 OR)

The only "consequences" would be if the product was insufficiently rinsed or you were careless in its use. I think (haven't looked it up recently) that the NCHFP is quite clear on that. If a lime residue is left on the product it has the potential to raise the pH. Of course that can be a safety issue.

Pickling lime (also called food-grade lime/calcium hydroxide) is a powerful crisping agent preferred by traditional preservers and in ethnic groups like Greeks who use it for spoon sweets.

Pickle crisp (calcium chloride) as mentioned is a convenient substitute, though if you're trying to re-create the texture of a recipe you remember, you may have to fiddle with amounts.

However, with sufficient care pickling lime is fine to use. Otherwise the NCHFP would never continue to include recipes calling for it.

Work in a well-ventilated area, be sure you're well-covered, and protect your eyes.

I'm attaching a link to the Mrs. Wages MSD sheet for pickling lime. It's not meant to be scary, but as with many chemicals, pickling lime should be treated with respect.


Here is a link that might be useful: Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime MSD Sheet

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 9:19PM
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Cal is Spanish for lime as in calcium hydroxide (CaH2O2), used to make masa. It's the same as slaked lime, or pickling lime. So if you want to use pickling lime, it's the same stuff.

They have another term, Cal viva, which is quick or unslaked lime, which is used in things like concrete. Don't think you'd find Cal viva at the local Mexican grocer :-)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 10:37PM
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simplicitygardens(z8 pacific N.W.)

Thanks all,

I did decide to dive in and go for it with the pickling lime. I felt a bit like a mad scientist what with the repeated rinsings the gloves and the fan going for ventilation. I really could tell it does make them crisp up for sure. I gave them one extra rinse/soak just cause I wanted to be sure there was absolutely no residue left.

Again thanks for the valuable info always found here.


    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 6:53PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

One thing of concern to me is texture, if pickling lime has a different texture than cal then you may get a different amount in a solution if you measure volumetrically.

Also a bit of a technical point Ca(OH)2 is a more common way of presenting the formula; CaH2O2 is still completely correct as the empirical formula but the version with parenthesis is more standard,

    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 7:16PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Pickling lime is a powder and will mix with water SORT OF, but settles to the bottom even if its stirred for 10 minutes or more in an attempt to dissolve it. If its left sitting a few minutes the lime settling begins and if you stir it, the lime will float around a little for a short time. Adding cukes to the lime, requires they sit at least 12 hours in the refrigerator, with a few stirs to get the lime agitated. It dulls stainless steel. Getting it off the cukes is very hard. It will not just wash or rinse off, but needs a bit of scrubbing and several minutes of continual washing. Even for that, some can still stick to the cuke skins and then settle out inside the jar of pickles once vinegar and salt brine are added. The Calcium Cloride TOTALLY dissolves in water and has no sediment, and if used as a presoak, needs far less rinsing off, just a quick rinse. If used as the addituve to a pickling brine, it also dissolves and acts as a 'buffer' for the high acid vinegar, to help the cukes to remain firm for many months. Its used in commercially canned whole tomatoes to help keep them firm too. It has no noticable taste and if used properly, will not create any safety issues in any pickle making recipes. The pickling lime needs a couple of cups per gallon of water as the presoak. For the Pickle Crisp (Calcioum Chloride) only about 4-5 teaspoons are used for a gallon of water as a presoak. For adding direct to pickle jars, only about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon is used per pint, or 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons per quart. The original Ball Pickle Crisp is a smaller granule size, compared to the generic CC sold by Bulk Foods. Becuase of the larger granule size, you would use slightly more. Pickle Crisp calls for 1/2 teaspoon per pint and 1 teaspoon per quart of pickles. Hope that answers any possible questions about its use, diffrences, and effects on vinegar brined based pickled items.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 9:15PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Ca(OH)2 (Calcium Hydroxide) is not very soluble in water, you can add about a gram and a half to a liter, however in the presence of CO2 you get formation of Ca(HCO3)2 (calcium bicarbonate) with some equilibration to CaCO3 which is much more soluble (roughtly ten times). With CaCl2 you will get about 750 grams in a liter. As you pack more and more CaCl2 in you will get precipitation of Ca(HCO3)2 and most of it will probably happen onto your pickles, necessitating the scrubbing you were lamenting.

I suspect that buffer is the wrong word, while CaCl2 can be combined with equal amounts of Ca(OH)2 to make a buffer from pH ~10.6-12.65 (pKa +/- 1) or with hydrochloric acid to form a buffer from damn low to really damn low (think in the 1 range). I suspect that the Calcium is bound up by various proteins and other organic macromolecules providing a level of stability and this in turn prevents mush formation.

I miss chemistry.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 9:55PM
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simplicitygardens(z8 pacific N.W.)

Well for the record (since this is still going). When I dumped the initial soak mix of 1 1/2 gallon water with 1 1/2 cup pickling lime as per the recipe at NCHFP there was a considerable amount of lime residue at the bottom of my gigantic stainless bowl(which seems no worse for wear as a result of this ordeal) the peppers at that point had soaked for 18 hours in the fridge. Each rinsing lasted at least 10 minutes or so in continuously running water with me in clean surgical gloves swooshing and agitating the peppers like mad but not enough to break them all to pieces or anything. Then each time they soaked for another hour in fridge. I did that three times. There was no mention of scrubbing the heck out of them on that website and my understanding is that it is a reputable source for recipes. I feel I really got in there and rinsed pretty darn good. All I gotta say is that they looked clean and there was no more residue at the bottom of the bowl by the last soak. My pickled peppers are waiting :)


    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 11:37PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

The scrubbing is usually necessary for pickling CUCUMBERS. Teh lime tends to stick to them very well and once in a vinegar brine, it falls off and settles to the bottom of the jars. Too much can cause a spoiled pickled CUCUMBER. Peppers have relatvly smooth skins so they wouldn't need as an agressive amount of rinsing. I still much prefer the use of the calcium chloride as its somthing you add when filling the packed jars with brine. I've got two big jars of pickling lime and its going in to the garden soil next spring.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2009 at 1:48PM
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Anybody knows how to do walnut preserve(jam) and Citron with pickling lime?

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 1:37AM
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