Assorted pickling supplies and cucumbers ready to be cut on a kitchen counter.

Pickles Troubleshooting

We want to ensure your pickled creations have the freshest taste and color possible. The chart below details answers to picking the best produce, preventing discoloration of your homemade pickles and ensuring your pickles are crunchy every time.

  • Why is the pickling liquid cloudy?
    • This can be due to food spoilage caused by under processing. Discard the pickles. Use the processing time and method recommended in the tested fresh preserving recipe.
    • Minerals present in hard water can also cause clouding. To avoid this problem, use soft or distilled water.
    • Table salts include an anti-caking agent. Ball® Salt for Pickling & Preserving does not contain additives and should be used for home canning.
  • Why is the pickling liquid pink?
    • This can be caused by the use of over-mature 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 under processing can also make pickling liquid pink, cloudy or slimy. Discard the pickles. Use the processing time and method recommended in the tested fresh preserving recipe.
  • Why are pickles are darkened or discolored?
    • This can be due to the presence of certain minerals in the water used during the pickling process. Use soft or distilled water.
    • Brass, iron, copper, aluminum or zinc utensils 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 may also be the cause.
    • Before filling the jars, remove whole spices used to flavor pickling liquid (including those contained in a spice bag).
  • Why are the pickles hollow?
    • This may be due to the faulty growth of cucumbers. Identify hollow cucumbers before using them by placing them in a bowl of water. Hollow cucumbers will float. These cucumbers are best suited for making relish.
  • Why are pickles spotted, dull, or faded?
    • This happens when cucumbers are not well brined. Use the recommended ratio of water to salt and make sure to complete the fermentation process.
    • Excessive exposure to light during storage could be the cause. Store fresh preserved food in a dark, dry, cool place (70-75°F).
    • The issue may be the result of poor quality cucumbers. Always use high-quality produce, good enough to eat.
  • Why are pickles shriveled?
    • This can happen when you add too much salt, sugar or vinegar to the cucumbers all at once. Gradually add salt, sugar or vinegar until incorporating the complete amount.
    • The brining solution was too strong. Do not use a syrup that is too heavy or a vinegar with more than 5% acidity. Use the processing time and method recommended in the tested fresh preserving recipe.
    • It is 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 pick them before preserving to allow the brine to saturate and plump the flesh of the cucumbers.
    • The wax coating of some cucumbers prevents the brine from penetrating the peel. Ensure that your cucumbers are un-waxed. Pickling cucumbers and English cucumbers un-waxed, but some field cucumbers are.
    • This can be the result of overcooking or over processing. Use the processing time and method recommended in the tested fresh preserving recipe.
  • Why is there a white sediment on the bottom of the jar?
    • Harmless yeasts that grow on the surface before settling to the bottom cause this. There is no cause for concern - the presence of a small amount of white sediment is normal.
    • Table salts include an anti-caking agent. Use Ball® Salt for Pickling & Preserving, which does not contain additives, for home canning.
  • Why do pickles lack crispness?
    • Poor quality cucumbers may lack crispness. Choose high-quality cucumbers and use them within 24 hours of harvest. Pickling cucumbers deteriorate very rapidly, especially at room temperature.
    • Use only pickling cucumbers; other varieties may be good choices for relishes or chutneys.
    • 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-inch 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. Use the processing time and method recommended in the tested fresh preserving recipe.
    • Remove the scum atop of the brine during fermentation daily.
    • Completely cover pickles with brine during fermentation and inside the filled jar.
    • 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.
  • Why do pickles have a strong, bitter taste?
    • This happens when you use old spices, cook too long in vinegar, or you use too much spice. Use fresh spices – use whole spices within 3-4 years of purchase. Use the processing time and method recommended in the tested fresh preserving recipe.
    • You may have used vinegar that was too strong. Always use vinegar with 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.
  • Why is there a layer on the brine?
    • Surface waste that forms during fermentation is the result of yeast, mold, and bacteria feeding on the acid. If allowed to accumulate the waste will reduce concentration. Remove waste daily during fermentation.
  • Why are garlic cloves discolored?
    • Using immature garlic can cause this problem but garlic and pickles are still safe to eat. Cure immature garlic bulbs for 2-4 weeks at 70°F.
    • 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 can occur. Garlic and pickles remain safe to eat. Using soft water can minimize
    • these reactions.
    • 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.
  • Why is cauliflower 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.

Download a printable version of Pickles Troubleshooting here.