Canning and Pickling Salt
Functions of Salt in Home Canning
Depending on what you are making, salt may or may not be an essential ingredient.
In home canned vegetables (not pickling) and meats, salt provides flavor but does not impact the safety or texture of the canned food. If you want to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet you can leave out the salt for this type of canning. Salt can be added, if desired, when the food is eaten.
In fresh- or quick-pack pickles salt does impact the texture and flavor. Leaving salt out yields lower quality pickles texture and flavor issues, but the safety will not have not affected. It is the added vinegar that provides the safety. Vinegar must have 5 percent acidity (check the label) and be measured carefully for a safe product.
In brined and/or fermented vegetables, such as old fashioned dill pickles or sauerkraut, salt is essential for both success and safety and must not be reduced or eliminated. The correct concentration of salt helps permit the growth of the desirable lactic acid bacteria which produce the acid for safety, flavor and texture, while preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Do not attempt to make sauerkraut or fermented pickles by cutting back on the salt required in a tested recipe.
Choosing the Type of Salt
Canning and pickling salt is the recommended salt for home canning and pickling. It does not contain the additives found in regular table salt. Tested recipes use this form of salt when they are researched.
Table salt is a mixture of sodium chloride, potassium iodide (only in iodized salt), dextrose and calcium silicate (an anti-caking agent). While table salt could be used for canning it is not recommended because the calcium silicate can cause clouding in the jars during storage, possibly making spoilage. Iodide, if present, can discolor some foods, yielding eating quality.
Kosher salt does not contain the anti-caking agent or the iodide. However, the size of the salt grains are larger than those of canning/pickling salt making it difficult to measure precisely. When measuring a tablespoon of canning/pickling salt more of the finer grains will fit in the spoon than will the larger grains of kosher salt. This results in the use of less salt than called for in the recipe. Not a problem for canned vegetables. Fresh- or quick-pack pickle quality would be reduced with kosher salt. But for brined or fermented pickles the quality, and more importantly the safety, would be at risk.
Sea salt does not contain the anti-caking agent or added iodide. However, some contain higher levels of other minerals which affect the flavor of pickled foods. Sea salt can have the same salt crystal size issues found with kosher salt potentially reducing both quality and safety of brined and fermented foods.
Substituting When Canning/Pickling Salt is not Available for Brined or Fermented Foods
In situations where canning/pickling salt is not available kosher salt could serve as a substitute if measured by weight. Because table salt has the same crystal size as canning/pickling salt you can determine the weight of the salt called for in the recipe by weighing an equal amount of table salt, preferably in grams. Then measure an equal weight of kosher salt and use that in the recipe in place of the canning/pickling salt.