The Scoop on Pickle Crisp

Pickle CrispI’d never heard of Pickle Crisp until a couple of weeks ago, when I was giving a radio interview and a caller mentioned the product. Pickle Crisp, I learned, is a trade name for calcium chloride, a common additive in commercial canning. Calcium chloride is used for several purposes, but in pickles it is mainly a firming agent.

On searching the Web for more information, I learned that Pickle Crisp had been marketed by Jarden, the company that makes Ball jars, but was no longer available.

To find out more, I contacted Lauren Devine at Jarden. The company sold Pickle Crisp for about two years. It was intended to replace pickling lime, which home picklers, particularly in the South, have long used to firm such pickles as bread-and-butters and pickled figs. But lime is troublesome to use: You must first soak the fruit or vegetable pieces in a mixture of lime and water, and then rinse and soak them repeatedly until the water is clear and the lime won’t affect the pickle’s pH much. Calcium chloride is easier to use: You add 1/8 teaspoon along with the fruit or vegetable pieces and the pickling liquid to a pint jar, or 1/4 teaspoon to a quart jar. (Jarden has tested Pickle Crisp only with fresh pickles, not with fermented ones.)

Unfortunately for Jarden, sales of Pickle Crisp were slow, and only upon removing the product from the market did Jarden realize that there was much demand for it. Jarden decided to bring the product back, but in improved form. The old Pickle Crisp was a powder that tended to dissolve into steam. The new version will have bigger grains.

The new Pickle Crisp should be in the home-canning sections of supermarkets and farm-supply stores next March or April.

UPDATE 2022: Today Pickle Crisp is widely available in stores. Its firming effect is subtle, unlike that of lime. Some people object to the strong, sour taste of calcium chloride. See also “Testing Pickle Crisp.”

31 thoughts on “The Scoop on Pickle Crisp”

    1. Although Ball recommends Pickle Crisp only for vinegar pickles, commercial picklers use calcium chloride in fermented cucumber pickles as well, not just to keep pickles crisper but also to reduce the quantities of sodium chloride used in brining and thereby reduce the salty wastes that can pollute our waterways. I have so far added calcium chloride to pickle brine only once, and because I prepared no control crock the results were inconclusive. Adding 1½ tablespoons Pickle Crisp per gallon of water, however, did seem to firm the cucumbers a bit, and the strangely harsh taste of Pickle Crisp wasn’t noticeable to my tasters. If I’m interpreting the studies correctly, just ¼ teaspoon Pickle Crisp per gallon may be effective in keeping fermented cucumbers firmer.

      1. Thanks for your response. I am confused on whether to use 1/4 teaspoon or 1 1/2 tablespoons of pickle crisp per gallon of water.

      2. I use young grape leaves to keep lacto fermented dill pickles crisp, also from my garden, and they are edible! Just place two-three, well rinsed, young leaves on the bottom of the pickling jar or crock before packing with cucumbers. I cover the top of the cucumbers with a couple as well to keep everything well under the brine, but now I use pickle pipes so it’s not necessary anymore, just a habit from when I had to burp jars.

      3. I followed the instructions for the pickle crisp on a test batch. What I got were more like refigerator pickles. Not crisp at all. I will go back to lime cure from now on. I may try it again on onions since some thought it helped a little on the crispness

        1. You make an important point, May: the increased firmness you get with calcium chloride is nothing like what you get with lime. If you really like the lime cure, it makes sense to keep using it.

  1. If you’re wary about Pickle Crisp, Mark, you might start with as little as 1/4 teaspoon per gallon. If the pickles turn out as firm as you like, you’ll know that you don’t need more. For comparison, it would be helpful to simultaneously start a control batch, without Pickle Crisp but otherwise the same. I’d be interested in hearing about your results.

    1. I don’t know, Sally. I haven’t experimented with this, and I don’t know anyone who has. If you want to experiment yourself, I suggest adding 1 1/2 tablespoons Pickle Crisp per gallon of water to one batch, and at the same time preparing a second batch of the same vegetables without added Pickle Crisp. I’d love to know the results. By the way, what sort of vegetables do you want to keep crisper?

    2. I have seen some people advise that if you want to try calcium chloride (aka Pickle Crisp) with fermented pickled products, add it into the jars when you are actually canning the pickles or sauerkraut, not into the vat during the fermentation process.

      That being said, I’ve just spent 5 minutes googling to try to find *where* I saw that said, and can’t find it, so, it’s probably worth no more than any other hearsay!

        1. Thank you, John! But this recipe is for vinegar pickles, not fermented pickles. A recipe for fermented pickles would include little or no vinegar and would require a fermentation time of several days to several weeks.

  2. I would like to know if it is ok –or advised – to use Pickle Crisp when canning pickles in addition to the lime soak. My pickles are soaking in lime now but wondering if using Pickle Crisp to each jar will make the pickles even crisper??

  3. I am wanting to get away from alum. Can I omit the alum soak on cucumber slices and continue to the layering with sugar to set until syrup developes then after heating add the pickle crisp to the jars either before or after putting hot pickles into the jar. Thanks

    1. What a good question, Vivian! Calcium chloride is certainly used in vegetables that are canned commercially without pickling. I checked the Ball website (freshpreserving.com) for information about this but found nothing about Pickle Crisp at all. I think it would do no harm to try Pickle Crisp in your home-canned vegetables. I’d use the same amounts recommended for pickled vegetables.

      1. I have used 1/8 tsp per qt in diced & crushed tomatoes with great results. Typically my tomatoes breakdown becoming mostly liquid during canning. From the same batch of tomatoes I canned some with & some without Pickle Crisp. The difference was incredible. With the PC the tomatoes did not turn to mush. I have used it ever since. Aside from that, I omit salt and waterbath in accordance with Blue Book recommendations.

  4. I pickle green tomatoes and have used pickling lime for years. I can no longer find the lime in stores. My question is, can pickle crisp be used after soaking the tomatoes in alum for 24 hours?

    1. Patricia, I don’t know any reason you couldn’t use both Pickle Crisp and alum, but I don’t advise using alum in large quantities. It has a strong taste, and I’m not sure it’s even safe in large quantities. But you could buy pickling lime over the Internet. The usual brand is Mrs. Wages, and there is another brand called Larissa Veronica. Or you could go into a Mexican grocery and look for cal. It is the same stuff, used by Mexicans to nixtamalize corn.

  5. When using Mrs. Wages brand pickle crisp do you need to eliminate the pickling salt because of making the pickles too salty?

    1. I’ve never thought of canning green tomato slices, but with a little googling I see this is a common practice. Green tomatoes can be canned following the same guidelines for ripe tomatoes. Katy, do you find that the Pickle Crisp makes a noticeable difference in the texture?

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