What’s pickling?

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Lime and alum pickling are harmful and should be discontinued as firming agents in pickling recipes, according to food safety experts. Lime pickling can cause botulism, and alum is deadly in small amounts. If lime pickling is used, the pickled vegetables should be rinsed several times with clean water to wash off the lime. Industrial grade lime should not be used as it may contain impurities that are unsafe for ingestion.

Lime pickling is an ingredient used in the pickling process to preserve vegetables such as cucumbers. The purpose of food grade lime is to preserve the firmness of pickles, and a similar firming agent, alum, is sometimes used in place of lime in some pickling recipes. Calcium hydroxide, another name for lime pickling, is combined with water to make a bath for cucumbers in many pickling recipes, and the soaking period can range from 12 to 24 hours. After this period of time, however, it is essential that all the lime is washed off the pickled food, whether it is pickles or watermelon rinds or other types of products. Failure to do so could result in botulism, a nerve toxin that causes serious illness and sometimes paralysis and death.

Food safety experts recommend that lime and alum pickling be discontinued as firming agents in pickling recipes, despite their use as ingredients in generations of pickling recipes. Experts say that lime and alum pickling can be harmful. Alum is deadly if an adult consumes a total of just 1 ounce (28.34 grams), and lime can cause botulism and other serious health problems that could even cause death. If lime pickling is used in a recipe, the cucumbers or other pickled vegetables should be given several rinses with clean water to wash off the lime. An additional rinse is required because pickled vegetables can absorb some of the lime from the pickling mixture in which the vegetables were first dipped.

Safety recommendations call for a first rinse with water or soak for one hour, then two more similar rinses immediately after the first one. To avoid the use of lime pickling, an alternative way of firming cucumbers before pickling is to soak the cucumbers in cold water and let them soak for up to five hours. Another recommendation is to make sure any vegetables you pick are as fresh as possible because any hint of softness or spoilage can’t be reversed.

The use of industrial grade lime is not recommended as a pickling lime as it may contain impurities that are unsafe for ingestion or use with food. Industrial lime is found in cleaners, solvents and cement. In addition to botulism, ingesting lime can cause calcium hydroxide poisoning with numerous symptoms requiring medical attention, including throat pain, vision loss, digestive problems including vomiting and pain, organ damage, respiratory problems, burns skin rashes and a rapid drop in blood pressure.

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