Pickle Crisp is a brand name for food-grade calcium chloride made by the Ball company. It is mainly used as a firming agent for canning pickles and other fruits and vegetables. It’s a convenient and easy-to-use product that replaces the process of soaking produce for hours. To use it, add a small amount to each jar.
Newell Brands (then Jarden Home Brands) first started selling its Pickle Crisp under the Ball brand name around 2004. It was in production until the end of 2007 when they discontinued it because it wasn’t selling all that great and the company wasn’t getting the figures that it expected/needed I guess.
By 2013, they started the production again and it is still being made, By now, their product is a well-established name in the canning industry and most of the recipes reference their Pickle Crisp.
The chemical compound calcium chloride and Pickle Crisp are being used interchangeably in the food industry. CaCl2 is a type of salt – an inorganic compound that is highly soluble in water but is a white crystalline solid at room temperature.
It’s being used as a dust controlling agent for road surfaces, as a deicer, as a component in air dehumidifiers, and in the food industry mainly as a firming agent.
What is Pickle Crisp Used for?
Pickle Crisp is sold as granules of calcium chloride that should be used to firm or crisp your pickles. It should not be used as a preservative, and that’s clearly stated on the packaging.
Due to its extreme saltiness, it can be used to flavor the pickles or other food without adding salt/sodium to it. If you’re not careful, your food could become too salty to the point that the solution can taste like seawater.
So, how much Pickle Crisp should you use then? The company says that you should add 1/8 tsp to pint (500 ml) jars and 1/4 tsp to quart (1 L) jars before processing.
Here are the exact instructions that are on the label:
- Prepare recipe as instructed. Pack vegetables into jars.
- Add Pickle Crisp granules (rounded 1/4 tsp per quart and rounded 1/8 tsp per pint).
- Ladle hot pickling liquid into jars.
- Process in boiling water canner or refrigerate according to the recipe.
Calcium chloride has a long history in the canning industry as it was first used to help achieve higher canning temperatures.
Popular Brands of Pickle Crisp
The original Ball Pickle Crisp is widely available and is sold in 5.5 oz containers. You can find it over the counter in your local store, in specialized brewing stores, on Amazon, Walmart, etc.
As we already know, Pickle Crisp is just a brand name for calcium chloride and other companies have their own products on the market. Let’s have a look at some of them.
Mrs. Wages Pickle Mix adds more crispness to pickles, watermelon rinds, and cherries and is a popular alternative to Pickle Crisp. It also contains granules of calcium chloride.
Home Brew Ohio Calcium Chloride is another Pickle Crisp alternative. It’s also advertised as a cheese-making product and to correct mineral deficiencies in water for home brewing beer.
Apart from the original Pickle Crisp, Ball also makes other related pickle mix products. The Kosher Dill Pickle Mix is a ready made mix for canning pickles that adds a dill flavor to them.
They also sell their Ball Pickling Salt that is ideal for canning and preserving because it’s simply pure granulated salt or sodium chloride that doesn’t have any anti-caking agents or additives that are traditionally added to table salt and that may cloud your pickling liquid.
How to Store Pickle Crisp?
Pickle Crisp or calcium chloride should be stored in a dark and cool place like your cabinet under the sink for example or some other such place. A thing to note is that you should store it away from small children. So, in that case, store it somewhere higher up.
The jar should be tightly-closed to prevent moisture from coming in. If humid air does get into the jar, the calcium chloride might become “caked”. It can still be used if it does, you’ll just have to break up the clumps.
If you don’t want to purchase any of the brand name Pickle Crisps or its alternatives, another option is to simply use a generic food-grade calcium chloride. It should be readily available in brewing supply stores.
When shopping around, make sure you are informed that you’re buying the food-grade alternative to Pickle Crisp and not the industrial type.
In the days before Pickle Crisp, people used to use alum or potassium alum for pickling. It’s a fine white powder that you can buy over the counter. Alum is approved as a food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but can be toxic in larger quantities. It’s therefore used to soak the produce instead of using it in the final pickling solution.
You can still find recipes that require alum to be added, but you can just leave it out or add Pickle Crisp instead.
Uses Other Than for Pickling
Calcium chloride (CaCl2) has many uses and is widely utilized as a deicing agent as it’s much more efficient at lower temperatures than sodium chloride (salt).
Its second-largest application is to suppress the formation of dust on dirt roads because it adds and keeps a liquid layer on the surface preventing the wind from blowing away the dust particles.
As a food agent, calcium chloride is used as an electrolyte in sports beverages and other drinks, including bottled water. The soy industry uses it to firm soybean curds into tofu and to make a caviar substitute by firming fruit juices or vegetables.
Cheesemakers sometimes add it to processed milk to restore the original balance between calcium and protein in casein.