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Pickling Salt vs. Other Salts in Canning

how to use pickling salt

A few weeks ago, I taught a canning seminar at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show and several people asked me about pickling salt.

They wanted to know about Pickling Salt’s:

    • – Necessity
    • – Safety
    • – Benefits
    • – What they could use as a substitution (if any).

Great questions!

So in today’s mini lesson, I thought I would give you all the low down on SALT!

Using Pickling SaltWhat’s So Special About Pickling Salt?

Basically, pickling salt (aka “canning salt”) is a salt that has no additives or anti-caking agents. (Common household salt does have additives.) The anti-caking agents are just there to make the salt pourable. But in pickling, those same ingredients can cause the liquid in the jar to turn cloudy!

So a pickling salt is basically just pure salt that keeps your pickle brine (or any other canning liquid) crystal clear. It will not look murky or otherwise unappealing. Pickling salt is also cut as a fine grain so that it dissolves quickly in liquid. So no matter if you are making quick pickles (unfermented) or fermented pickles, pickling salt will keep the liquid clear and nice looking.

Can I Use Other Salt Instead of Pickling Salt?

Yes, BUT there are some guidelines.

First, you can’t always just interchange the measurements of one salt for another. The grain size is usually different and if you measure tablespoon for tablespoon, you might actually be getting a different salt concentration then is intended in the recipe. As you probably know, in fermented canning recipes the salt concentration should NEVER be altered or your may not be safe. (The salt is be there to prevent bad bacteria including botulism.) So unless you know the weight needed of the pickling salt and can weight an equal amount of an alternative, you just might be altering the concentration…and that could be dangerous.

How to Use Pickling Salt

The one exception to this is kosher salt.

Kosher Salt:  is commonly interchanged with pickling salt because most are also pure salt with no additives or anti-caking agents. (Note: A few brands of kosher salt DO have other ingredients, so always check the label if you want a clear brine. It should only say “salt” and nothing else.) And if you can find a “fine grain” kosher salt, all the better.

Kosher is the only salt I will sometimes use as a substitute if I am out of pickling salt. The grains are not exactly the same size, but kosher salt generally weighs about the same as pickling salt.

Other Salts Are Safe, But Not Recommended:

Sea Salt and Flake Salt: These two salts are the most commonly asked about in canning. Although both of these salts are perfectly safe to use from a sodium standpoint, they cannot be used interchangeably with pickling salt because they measure out very differently by volume. Their grains are shaped very differently from pickling salt. (Sea salt has large, irregular grains and flake salt is flat and stacks in a compact way.)

They just measure out differently by volume than pickling salt. For that reason, it is not recommended that you substitute other salt in canning recipes unless you can use a weight measurement instead of volume. If you can measure by weight, then either of these salts would be fine.

The Bottom Line:

The bottom line is that if you can get pickling salt, buy it! It is available anywhere that canning supplies are sold and is also available in cooking stores and even online. It is by far the best salt for canning. Remember, most recipes that are calling out salt as an ingredient are proportioned for pickling salt. It is always best to use that as choice #1 and kosher salt as choice #2.

Here in Los Angeles, I can only find pickling salt at a limited number of stores – So I sometimes buy it online.

How about you? Are you able to find pickling or canning salt locally in your neighborhood?

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy®. For 9 years, Theresa was the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two sons and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.