The Ever-Elusive Pickling Salt

Strange to think that in many ways summer is nearly over.  Seems like only yesterday I wrote a blog post prior to my earliest trip of the summer months, a week-long backpacking and camping adventure which I not only survived, but also enjoyed.  But here we are inching toward the end of August–a few other weekend trips under my belt, enough 90+ degree days to count on one hand (I don’t recall the exact number, it may need two hands, but you get my point), and no pickles to call my own.  We always find excuses for why we don’t end up doing the things we intend; that’s one of the perks of being human.  So instead of listing all the reasons why I haven’t been pickling (or blogging), I’d rather focus on the future.
For many observant Jews, this is the time we prepare for the High Holy Days, which is as good a time as I know to try and right some wrongs, or in this case, take care of some things we’ve been meaning to.  I don’t mean to suggest that pickling aids repentance, but I can’t imagine it would hurt either.  [Why not show up with a jar of Kosher dills when mending fences?]
In the spirit of the season, I decided this weekend would be for pickling, among other household items on the to-do list.  I ventured out this morning to pick up some necessary supplies and after four markets and two and a half hours driving within about a 10-mile radius, I made it home with nearly all of the supplies I was looking for, with some exceptions.  Who knew pickling salt was such a rare jewel?  Not just today, but in the months I’ve been making pickles, I have never actually seen in person this mysterious green box labeled “Canning & Pickling Salt” made by Morton.  I’ve read about it, and heard all kinds of reports of sightings at “your local grocery store” but have yet to actually make contact.  As I stood in grocery store number three, in front of their selection of Ball wide-mouth pint jars, I googled pickling salt and what might be an appropriate substitute.  One of the reasons pickling salt is favored is that regular table salt is iodized, which darkens pickled foods.  And many salts use an anti-caking agent, which tends to cloud the brine.  Neither of these situations will cause one any harm, only perhaps embarrassment when it comes to presentation.  I ultimately opted for a coarse Kosher salt, which does include the anti-caking agent Yellow Prussiate of Soda, and I will just take my chances on a murky brine.
On an somewhat related note, out of the four markets I shopped at, only one had actual pickling cucumbers, which were so bruised and wrinkled I had to pass.  At my final stop, I checked in with the produce manager and he mentioned that they just don’t have the demand for pickling cucumbers so they’ve never been able to keep them in the store.  I went ahead with three pounds of Persian cucumbers, which he said would be fine.  He may have been just trying to get rid of me, but I haven’t found anything yet online to contradict his statement.
Alas, it all may have to wait until tomorrow anyway as we are but a few hours into the process of making some cheddar.  Our kitchen can only hold so much excitement.  But to keep with the theme, perhaps I’ll add cucumber slices to our martinis.

One Comment to “The Ever-Elusive Pickling Salt”

  1. icantlookback 17 September 2010 at 5:30 pm #

    Love the blog!I have recently become a pickler myself and had the same problem finding pickling salt. BUT, I can give you the secret. You can find it at an amazing spice store in Arlington, MA called Penzey's Spices. They do web orders as well. If you are indeed in the Boston area, I recommend Russo's Market in Waltham for pickling cucumbers. They almost always have amazing,fresh cukes. Good luck! I look forward to hearing how your pickles came out!

    PS- I only found the salt after my 1st batch, which came out beautifully using kosher salt!

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