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I've got the spices, jars, etc. I was wondering if there is a special salt, or can I just use table salt?

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4 Answers

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One thing you also might want to consider when making pickles is the process of heating versus not. I recently learned that the crispy store bought pickles are pickled at low temps (my preferred method), where as softer pickles were most likely heated first. Not sure which method you are using, but this may help as you move forward. My step-mother recently made some awesome pickles with chilies and dill and garlic but heated them first in the canning process and they turned out a bit too soft for my liking.

Regarding salt... I happen to agree with Adam's comment on the brine. I usually confirm salt is dissolved before it goes into the pickling solution, so it's not a problem. In that respect, a good quality salt, regardless of shape and size should be used (feel free to grind it in a mortar with a pestle if you think it should be finer). I happen to use coarse Kosher from Morton for most things...

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In addition to the things other answers have mentioned, its important that you use the same amount of salt, by weight, not volume.

All of the following are actually different amounts of salt, despite being the same volume:

  • 1 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt (~135 g)
  • 1 cup Morton Kosher salt (~250 g)
  • 1 cup table salt (~300 g)
  • 1 cup Morton's canning and pickling salt (~220 g)

Those weights come from:

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Pickling salt is very fine-grained, so that it will dissolve easily. It is important to have an even salt solution when pickling. You can use a more coarse salt; just take care it's dissolved completely.

Iodized salt can also turn the pickled items a darker color.

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"Pickling salt" is sold, the main difference being the absence of iodine and anti-caking agents. The anti-caking agents can cloud the pickling liquid, but shouldn't effect the flavor. Iodine can impart a bit of a bitter aftertaste, and some sources say can "react adversely with some foods".

I've never noticed a difference between the taste of table salt and that of kosher/pickling salt, but apparently others can. In any case, the differences are fairly minor. I would recommend investing in some kosher salt (its cheap) and using that in place of normal table salt. See http://cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/2242/why-do-some-recipes-recommend-kosher-salt

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it isn't all about differences but how they act in given situations. Just as Kosher salt is named so for its use in the koshering process because it is better at absorbing the blood from the meat, Pickling salt is named for the reason @JustRightMenus describes. It is a "use the correct tool for the job" situation. Sea salt on the other hand, you can have a lot of taste variation, even between different sea salts, as they have differing mineral compositions. –  ManiacZX Aug 11 '10 at 17:17
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True. I neglected this because when I've made pickles, I mix the brine and boil to incorporate the spices. This dissolves the salt before it contacts the thing to be pickled, so shape isn't a problem. –  Adam Shiemke Aug 11 '10 at 17:48
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