Pickling Help - Pickles Problem Solver
Ensure you have the freshest taste and color for your pickled creations. The Pickle Problem Solver helps you find the answers to picking the best produce, preventing discoloration of your homemade pickles and ensuring your pickles are crunchy every time.
This troubleshooting chart offers advice and solutions for many common pickling problems you may encounter when making homemade pickles, including:.
Follow the directions below or download and print our full list of pickling problems.
Pickling liquid is cloudy.
- This can be due to food spoilage caused by underprocessing. Discard the pickles. In the future, use only tested recipes and process for the recommended length of time.
- Minerals present in hard water can also cause clouding. To avoid this problem, use soft water.
- Finally, it could be due to an anti-caking agent which is an additive found in table salt. When canning, use Ball® Salt for Pickling & Preserving, which does not contain additives.
Pickling liquid is pink.
- This can happen when you use overmature dill. Always use the freshest ingredients when fresh preserving. This is merely a cosmetic problem and the product is still safe to eat.
- Yeast growth caused by underprocessing can make pickling liquid pink, cloudy or slimy. Discard the pickles. In the future, follow a tested recipe and process jars for the recommended length of time.
Pickles are darkened or discolored.
- Minerals present in the water used can cause this. Use soft water; hard water contains minerals.
- Brass, iron, copper, aluminum or zinc utensils used can discolor pickles. Use unchipped enamelware, glass, stainless steel or stoneware utensils when making pickles. The minerals in materials can react with the acid in the pickling liquid.
- Using ground spices instead of whole spices could be the cause.
- Finally, you may have left whole spices in the pickle jar. Before preserving, remove whole spices used to flavor pickling liquid, including those contained in a spice bag.
Pickles are hollow.
- This can be due to faulty growth of cucumbers. There is no solution, but to identify if cucumbers are hollow before using them, place them in a bowl of water. Hollow cucumbers will float. These cucumbers are best suited to making relish.
Pickles are spotted, dull, or faded.
- This can occur when cucumbers are not well brined. Use the recommended ratio of water to salt. Complete the fermentation process.
- Excessive exposure to light during storage could be the cause. Store fresh preserved food in a dark, dry, cool place (70 to 75°F).
- Poor quality cucumbers may be the problem. Always use high-quality produce, good enough to eat.
Pickles are shriveled.
- This can happen when you add too much salt, sugar or vinegar to the cucumbers all at once. Be sure to gradually add salt, sugar or vinegar until the full amount has been incorporated.
- Cucumbers may have been brined in a solution that was too strong, using syrup that was too heavy or using vinegar with more than 5% acidity. Be sure to follow a current, tested recipe, using the recommended amounts of salt, sugar and vinegar at 5% acidity.
- It’s possible that the cucumbers were not fresh when brined. Brine cucumbers within 24 hours of harvest, or refrigerate until ready to use. Pickling cucumbers deteriorate very rapidly, especially at room temperature.
- If using whole cucumbers, you need to prick them before preserving to allow the brine to saturate and plump the flesh of the cucumbers.
- This can happen when the cucumber has a wax coating that prevents the brine from penetrating the peel. Check to make sure your cucumbers are unwaxed. Pickling cucumbers and English cucumbers are not waxed, but some field cucumbers are.
- Finally, this can be the result of overcooking or overprocessing. Follow recommended cooking and processing times in a current, tested recipe.
There is white sediment on the bottom of the jar.
- This can be caused by harmless yeasts that grow on the surface and then settle to the bottom. There is no cause for concern. The presence of a small amount of white sediment is normal.
- Additives in table salt can also produce this effect. When canning, use Ball® Salt for Pickling & Preserving, which does not contain additives.
Pickles lack crispness.
- Poor quality cucumbers may lack crispness. Choose high quality cucumbers and use them within 24 hours of harvest.
- You may have used a variety of cucumber that is not recommended for pickling and canning. Use only pickling cucumbers; other varieties may be good choices for relishes or chutneys.
- This may be due to not using a crisping agent. Use a crisping agent such as Ball® Pickle Crisp® Granules.
Pickles are soft or slippery.
- This can happen when the blossom ends of the cucumbers are not removed. Cut 1/16” off blossom ends of cucumbers. The blossom end contains an enzyme that may cause softening.
- This can also happen if the brine or vinegar was too weak. Use Ball® Salt for Pickling & Preserving and vinegar with 5% acidity. Follow a current, tested recipe for proper ratios of salt to vinegar.
- This can happen if you do not remove the scum from the top of the brine during fermentation, which you should do daily.
- Another cause could be that the pickles were not completely covered with brine during fermentation.
- Finally, it could be that the pickles were underprocessed and spoilage is occurring. Discard the pickles. In the future, follow the recommended processing time in a current, tested recipe using a boiling water canner.
Pickles have a strong, bitter taste.
- This can happen when you use spices that are old, cooked too long in the vinegar, or you used too large a quantity of spice. Use fresh spices – whole spices should be used within 3 to 4 years of purchase. Follow current, tested recipes to ensure that quantities and times are correct.
- You may have used vinegar that was too strong. Always use vinegar at 5% acidity for fresh preserving.
- Using a salt substitute in place of Ball® Salt for Pickling & Preserving could be the problem. Salt substitutes contain potassium chloride, which is naturally bitter.
There is scum on the brine.
- Surface scum that forms during fermentation is the result of yeast, mold and bacteria feeding on the acid. If they are allowed to accumulate, they will reduce its concentration. Completely remove scum daily from the surface of the brine during fermentation.
Garlic cloves are green, blue or bluish-green.
- Using immature garlic can cause this problem. Garlic and pickles are safe to eat. In the future, cure immature garlic bulbs for 2 to 4 weeks at 70°F.
- This can also be caused by a chemical reaction between the pigments in the garlic with the iron, tin or aluminum in a reactive cooking pot, hard water or water pipes. Garlic and pickles are safe to eat. Using soft water in the future may help.
- Garlic may naturally have more blue pigment, and this may become more evident after pickling. It is merely a cosmetic problem and the garlic and pickles are safe to eat.
Cauliflower is pink.
- This is due to a chemical reaction caused by the interaction of pickling liquid acid with the pigment of the cauliflower. Pink cauliflower is safe to eat.