What is pickling lime(with pictures)and Health Benefits

Pickling lime is an ingredient that people has been using for home cooking for a long time. Considering its acclaimed negative impact on health many substitutes has come in the market. But it is a recipe that grandma used to love and it has an influence in pickle related stuff. Here we would like to explain pickling lime’s history, uses, what to do or not to do.

What is pickling lime actually?

It is simply a white odorless chemical powder. It is a food form of calcium hydroxide Ca(OH)2  which is slaked lime . We should not confuse it with quick lime or agricultural lime which is industrial toxic elements. It works by providing calcium into the pectin of the food to be pickled. The pH of a saturated solution of slaked lime is 12.4.

History and Uses

Historically pickling lime is being used for pickling vegetables from a very old time. Chemically it is just calcium hydro –oxide with has other uses than food –grade. Some other uses of calcium hydro-oxide may include:

  • Food processing – it helps to bind the corn tortilla together
  • Water and sewage treatment – it can help to remove particulate from the water.
  • Paper production
  • It can be used with cement to create mortar and stucco.

How to use pickling lime

If you want to use pickling lime to pickle your vegetables’ you have to use it before you start the pickling process. To start the process you have to use one cup of pickling lime with of canning salt. Then you have to use one gallon of water with it. Then you should leave it to soak overnight for 24 hours. You may want to stir them occasionally. After that, you can rinse them and use them as pickles. In some recipes to preserve the firmness a firming agent like alum is also used.

Why Expert doesn’t recommend using it anymore?

The most common reason for which Experts do not recommend using pickling lime for home canning anymore is that it has some history of making people sick. You have to bathe canned pickle in something acidic. It helps to kill any bacteria left from processing the food. That’s why most of the recipes advices to use vinegar which is a acidic substance. But pickling lime is a chemical that can neutralize acids. So if any of the lime is left in the can then it may neutralize the acidic effect of vinegar. Experts have linked many Botulism cases with this issue. This is a disease that affects the nerve system and may cause paralysis. Alum is also dangerous if an adult consumes it more than one ounce. For this reason, Experts do not recommend using pickling lime anymore.

Essential Safety Information

Essential Safety Information

If you want to use pickling lime despite all the issues concerned with it it’s better to use a high quality one. You should make sure you do not compromise with the quality. Some safety recommendations call that you have to soak the pickles for a good amount of time before you start the pickling process. As an alternative way you may want to soak your cucumber in the cold for five hours. You should never use aluminum tools with picking lime .It have the ability to destroy the surface of the pickle and allow harmful level of aluminum to penetrate into the pickles.

Last but not the least you should choose the fresh vegetables’ because you will not be able to reverse any kind of spoilage. You should be careful to follow the manufacturers’ instruction and you should give importance to the safety measures mentioned there.

Side effects related to using Pickling lime

As pickling lime is simply calcium hydro oxide. It may show some of the side effects related to the pickling lime. These side effects may include:

  • Experts have found some reports of botulism though the number is relatively very low.
  • Lime ingestion may cause calcium hydroxide poisoning with a lot of symptom such as throat pain, vision loss that may require medical help.
  • Digestive problems
  • Organ damage
  • Breathing problem
  • Skin burns
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Chronic exposure
  • low blood acidity
  • blood in the stool
  • loss of consciousness.

What you can use as a substitute?

People use pickling lime to make their pickles crisp and appealing. You can also add grape leaves to make your cucumber crunchy. Other than that the end of the cucumber holds softening agent. SO you should get rid of them before you start the pickling process. This will help to remain the cucumber crispy. You can also bathe the cucumber in ice cold water with a temperature of 165 to 180 degree Fahrenheit. It can also keep the pickles crisp. Some people also suggest using the pickling salt. Pickling salt is just normal salt, sodium chloride NaOH. It has anti caking agents and iodine which helps to leave the pickle crispy.

Where you can buy Pickling lime

Just because it is a chemical powder that does not mean you may buy it in some hardware store. You can find many different brands in any supermarket or grocery shop, you may find it in different online store also like Amazon. The most famous brand selling pickling lime is MRS Wages.


Pickling lime has been a classic ingredient to use in pickles. But Calcium Hydro oxide may cause different serious health issues like botulism. So Experts have suggested avoiding it and we should look for the other substitutes. Even if we want to use them in pickles we should be very careful about the safety cautions and the quality of pickling lime.

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