Testing Pickle Crisp

More than a year ago I wrote here about Pickle Crisp, a granulated form of calcium chloride that Jarden, the company that makes Ball jars, was planning to sell for home canners (after taking a powdered form of the same chemical off the market, because it tended to dissolve in steam). The new Pickle Crisp came out last spring, but it never appeared in stores in my area, despite the nearly universal popularity of home canning hereabouts. In October, I finally gave up looking in stores and ordered a jar of Pickle Crisp directly from Jarden, so I could try it in pickling the last of my jalapeños. The 5.5-ounce jar cost $5.99 plus shipping.

The directions on the container called for adding a rounded ¼ teaspoon to a quart jar or a rounded 1/8 teaspoon to a pint jar, along with the vegetable or fruit pieces and the pickling liquid. Because I was testing Pickle Crisp in just one half-pint jar of jalapeño rings, I used only a good pinch. Then I let the jar of jalapeños sit on the shelf for a few weeks before trying them, to give the calcium chloride plenty of time to do its work.

Old-fashioned pickling lime, most popular in the South, is used in much larger quantities and mixed with water. You soak the fruit or vegetable pieces in the mixture, and then you rinse and soak them repeatedly in fresh water to remove the excess lime. In comparison with pickling lime, Pickle Crisp seemed incredibly easy to use. But it also struck me as being, like lime, an unnecessary additive, however harmless.

I opened two jars of jalapeños at the same time, one with Pickle Crisp and one without. The Pickle Crisp peppers were noticeably firmer, but not brittle in the way that cucumbers treated with lime can be (I’ve never tried treating peppers with lime). I actually liked the firmer texture.

Although I bought the Pickle Crisp just to try it once, I think I’ll experiment with it more in the months to come.

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About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
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6 Responses to Testing Pickle Crisp

  1. Ann says:

    I was reading about the Pickle Crisp and found you review on it. I wondered if you have tried it on dill pickles or any other pickled veggies?
    The last time I made dill pickles they were mushy and the family didn’t care for them.

    • Ann, I think I did try Pickle Crisp on cucumber pickles of some sort last summer, but I haven’t opened the jars yet and will need some time to search for them. I’ll try to post an update this summer.
      Jarden recommends Pickle Crisp for cucumbers in vinegar, but the last I heard the company hadn’t tested the product with brined cucumbers.
      The usual cause of soft cuke pickles is too much heat. Pasteurizing in water heated to 180 to 185 degrees for 30 minutes works best and is an approved USDA method. Other causes of softening are overlong storage and overlong fermentation.

    • Deb says:

      I use it on dill pickles, hot pickles and bread and butter pickles. Love the stuff.

  2. DaNene says:

    I used it on cucumbers last year for pickles. We just opened up a jar we canned last summer and they were as crisp as ever! We love the pickle crisp.

  3. Judy says:

    Is pickle crisp considered healthy? Or is it a preservation chemical that our bodies find unnatural?

    • Calcium chloride has a lot of industrial uses and even some medical uses. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about its uses in food:

      “As an ingredient, it is listed as a permitted food additive in the European Union for use as a sequestrant [a kind of preservative] and firming agent with the E number E509. It is considered as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is on the US National Organic Program’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. The average intake of calcium chloride as food additives has been estimated to be 160–345 mg/day for individuals.

      “As a firming agent, calcium chloride is used in canned vegetables, in firming soybean curds into tofu and in producing a caviar substitute from vegetable or fruit juices. It is commonly used as an electrolyte in sports drinks and other beverages, including bottled water. The extremely salty taste of calcium chloride is used to flavor pickles while not increasing the food’s sodium content. Calcium chloride’s freezing-point depression properties are used to slow the freezing of the caramel in caramel-filled chocolate bars.

      “In brewing beer, calcium chloride is sometimes used to correct mineral deficiencies in the brewing water. It affects flavor and chemical reactions during the brewing process, and can also affect yeast function during fermentation. Calcium chloride is sometimes added to processed milk to restore the natural balance between calcium and protein in casein for the purposes of making cheeses, such as brie, Pélardon and Stilton. Also, it is frequently added to sliced apples to maintain texture.”

      I didn’t know that calcium chloride was used to flavor pickles as well as to firm them. So I just ran downstairs to eat a few grains of Pickle Crisp. The stuff does has an intense salty flavor, and also some bitterness. I had to spit it out and rinse my mouth.

      I checked the National Organic Program’s List of Allowed and Prohibited Substance to find out on exactly which list calcium chloride falls. I found out that, in organic farming, the stuff is banned except as a foliar
      spray to treat a physiological disorder associated with calcium uptake. I haven’t been able to figure out for sure whether calcium chloride is permitted in organic food processing, but I think that it is.

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