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Where can I find pickling lime?

Jess Leber Sep 9, 2006 09:20 PM

Can anyone help me find pickling lime (aka calcium hydroxide, quick lime, slaked lime) ? I have tried all of the obvious sources -- Rainbow, various hardware stores with decent canning sections, supermarkets. I know that I can find it online easily, but I'm wondering if I'm overlooking some local resource. I have promised my grandmother that I would make her watermelon rind pickle, like she had growing up in the South, and she particularly specified pickling lime as a key ingredient to get that perfect crispness. Many thanks in advance.

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  1. j
    Jess Leber RE: Jess Leber Sep 9, 2006 09:43 PM

    In doing some research on this stuff, I just wanted to add an interesting (at least to me) note on how it works. Apparently the calcium firms up the vegetable or fruit cell wall, so that it doesn't get mushy. I find this interesting because I believe that molasses is also high in calcium, and that this is why the addition of molasses to baked beans prevents them from getting mushy, even if you cook them for a very long time. I wonder if it might not be a good idea to ty adding some of this lime stuff (if I'm able to find it) to other cooked beans, providing that I then correct for the increase in alkalinity caused by the hydroxide part of the chemical.

    1. Sister Y RE: Jess Leber Sep 14, 2006 04:24 AM

      The only places I've ever seen it on the shelf are Asian markets - specifically, a Thai-made "White Lime" that comes in a pink plastic cup, sold at Vietnamese markets. My advice: hit up the South Asian places near you, especially if any of them are big and seem to cater to the restaurant industry.

      Good luck!

      1. f
        fine wino RE: Jess Leber Sep 14, 2006 04:40 PM

        Lime is also an ingredient in the masa used to make tortillas so maybe try a Mexican market, esp ones that make fresh corn tortillas. It's called "cal" en espanol.

        1. s
          susanova RE: Jess Leber Sep 14, 2006 05:00 PM

          I don't have any resources (I live in KY) but I just wanted to say "bless you" for wanting to make pickled watermelon rind for your grandmother. It truly is a wonderful accompaniment, and I understand wanting to do something special for your grandmother -- I made biyalis for my husband's grandmother (from Russia via NYC)... ONCE. :-)

          1. m
            mgcooke RE: Jess Leber Sep 18, 2006 04:18 PM

            I have made watermelon pickle "like your grandmother's" for 40 years having acquired the recipe from my mother-in-law. My friends and neighbors and family all love it. Originally she used Lilly's Lime Powder made b y Lilly Pharmaceuticals. They stopped making it about 20 years ago. Since then I have used Mrs. Wages Lime Powder which is available in grocery and hardware stores that have canning supplies - and also on line. The two products are obviously different because the recipe calls for a tablespoon of one and a cup of the other. The Lilly's was called "slaked lime". Although I do not think the ones made with Mrs Wages are quite as crisp, they are still quite good! I have tried using recipes in cookbooks that call for a salt water soaking and it is not the same at all! I saw your question while trying to locate a source for the "slaked lime" that Lilly's once sold.

            2 Replies
            1. re: mgcooke
              BrendaConk RE: mgcooke Sep 1, 2010 02:27 PM

              Hello! I know your post on pickling lime is from 2006 but would like to ask if you could give me your pickled watermelon recipe. I use the lime to make sweet pickles and my husband loves the watermelon. Thanks! BrendaConk@aol.com

              1. re: BrendaConk
                wolfe RE: BrendaConk Sep 1, 2010 02:52 PM

                Brenda, mgcooke doesn't seem to have posted since 2006. Here is 1 recipe with pickling lime and 2 without.

            2. m
              monevans RE: Jess Leber Sep 15, 2007 01:34 AM

              Try this link to the canning pantry. http://www.canningpantry.com/pickling...
              They sell pickling lime in 16oz plastic tubs either singly or by the dozen. Hope you're lucky, they don't ship to England.

              1. c
                charlesworth RE: Jess Leber Oct 16, 2007 02:45 PM

                Firstly, 'quick lime' is not pickling lime -- it is a caustic called calcium oxide not calcium hydroxide... try Mrs. Wages brand pickling lime -- it comes in a 1lb plastic tub -- it has recipes and directions for use and can be ordered on their website... plus, it is food grade!

                2 Replies
                1. re: charlesworth
                  glasshed RE: charlesworth Aug 23, 2009 11:55 AM

                  Quick lime (calcium oxide) becomes calcium hydroxide (pickling lime) when it is added to water. It does put out quite a bit of heat in the process and requires protective covering to handle. Best to use Pickling Lime as you stated......

                  1. re: glasshed
                    wolfe RE: glasshed Aug 23, 2009 12:00 PM

                    Jess has had 3 years to find it and charles warned him 2 years ago.

                2. m
                  mange bien RE: Jess Leber Oct 18, 2007 10:11 AM

                  Hi. Did you ever locate the pickling lime in the Bay Area? I live here too and I want to pickle some of my bounty of green tomatoes -- and I'd rather not wait to mail-order the stuff. After all, I have green tomatoes NOW.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: mange bien
                    Gremolata RE: mange bien Oct 28, 2007 01:17 PM

                    HI Mange -

                    Sorry I didn't see your post until now. I have plenty of extra pickling lime if you want some -- I live in Berkeley. Please contact me if you're interested.

                    1. re: mange bien
                      lwzigmund RE: mange bien Nov 7, 2007 07:10 PM

                      I just found some pickling lime at Vik's market in Berkeley (5th & Allston). It was behind the counter in a neon green container. I just asked for "chuna." I haven't checked out the availability in Mexican markets, but will do so at a future date. I used the lime to make a nice cornbread recipe. Delicious.

                    2. Eat_Nopal RE: Jess Leber Oct 18, 2007 02:05 PM

                      Slake Lime of course is a key ingredient in masa baked products. Most sizeable Mexican markets carry it... just ask for Cal (Kahhhl)

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                        mshenna RE: Jess Leber Oct 27, 2007 03:42 PM

                        Go to any Indian/South Asian market & look in the section for paan ingredients (nearby there should also be dried betel nuts, fennel seed, sometimes some candy mixtures, rose preserves, & other bits & pieces that go into paan). The little plastic cylinders marked "lime," "chuna," "pankachuna" or "paan ka chuna" are what you want. Some markets keep the paan ingredients behind the counter or near the register, so ask if you don't see it (& be prepared for a slightly shocked expression -- "you chew paan?"). I've used this, in fact, in making watermelon rind pickles, & it worked fine.

                        1. toodie jane RE: Jess Leber Oct 28, 2007 09:36 AM

                          If you use really fresh (a few hours picked) produce, you do NOT need to add lime for crisp pickles.

                          That said, an oldtimers' hint passed on to me is a fresh grape leaf at the bottom of the jar. I made dills for years without lime to great success.. Please try it.

                          1. i
                            irishlass RE: Jess Leber Aug 12, 2008 09:46 AM

                            I found pickling lime @ my local Walmart, in the canning section. Hope this helps.

                            1. p
                              peppertree72 RE: Jess Leber Sep 18, 2008 12:09 PM

                              I just found Pickling Lime at the Mexican Market on the corner of 16th and Valencia Streets in SF. As mentioned by a previous poster, it is labeled Cal and it's with the spices hanging above the fruit section of the market. I think the name of the market is Val 16.

                              1. r
                                rachelison RE: Jess Leber Jul 20, 2009 03:19 AM

                                I actually found some at the walmart in Milpitas. Only place I've seen it!

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: rachelison
                                  takuhead RE: rachelison Aug 23, 2009 05:38 PM

                                  walmart in mountain view has it

                                  1. re: takuhead
                                    bdd RE: takuhead Sep 16, 2009 02:16 PM

                                    Can someone report where it exists in Walmart Milpitas or Mountain View? I've been to both searching for it. I even found the mason jars, pickles, etc, but no Mrs. Mason's Pickling Lime.


                                    1. re: bdd
                                      Zeldog RE: bdd Sep 17, 2009 08:03 PM

                                      I've seen big bags (20 or 30 pounds) of cal at Home Depot. It's used to make mortar for bricklaying and such. I know it seems strange to buy cooking supplies at a home improvement store, but calcium hydroxide is calcium hydroxide, right? Or maybe there is a food grade cal?

                                      1. re: Zeldog
                                        bdd RE: Zeldog Sep 18, 2009 10:58 AM

                                        there is a difference in the food grade calcium hydroxide. don't make pickles (or use for saltwater aquariums) if it's not food grade and pure in quality (ie: don't buy building materials for food :))

                                2. h
                                  hiimmisterdude RE: Jess Leber Jul 6, 2010 07:00 AM

                                  It has been some time and I am wondering if you have found a store that carries it? I am now having trouble finding it...

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: hiimmisterdude
                                    mshenna RE: hiimmisterdude Jul 16, 2010 01:20 AM

                                    Where are you located?

                                  2. toodie jane RE: Jess Leber Jul 6, 2010 05:43 PM

                                    Different recipe taught me by an old-timer using his mother's circa 1890's recipe. Same result....

                                    Young grape leaves in the bottom of a jar of pickles will help keep them crisp. Must be the tannic acid? I've made many a jar of dills and always found young grape leaves to use. It works. 'Course I used cukes picked that day, not store-bought cukes. Same would probably hold true for watermelons. Pick them, cut them, and pickle them pronto.

                                    1. d
                                      dmb61 RE: Jess Leber Jul 28, 2010 01:48 PM

                                      You can find pickling lime at Walmarts in the housewares section along with pickling spices, canning and pickling salt, and your jar lids and seals.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: dmb61
                                        giacomantonia RE: dmb61 Jul 6, 2011 02:24 PM

                                        Okay, I know a year has passed on this thread, but perhaps some of you can weigh in on a related topic regarding watermelon pickles. The watermelons available this year have such thin rinds! How on earth can you make a pickle with a nearly rindless watermelon? Does anyone know where to find an old-fashioned watermelon with a good thick rind on it? I so badly want to make some watermelon pickles. Thank you so much. ;o)

                                      2. b
                                        BrendaConk RE: Jess Leber Jul 6, 2011 09:05 PM

                                        Hello! i have found the lime at Orchard Supply hardware, Lowe's and at a local Mexican food mart. the stuff I bought at Lowe's (like a Hoome Depot) is made by Ball canning Co, like the jars.. When I was a kid we would go to the lumber yard and they would shovel some into a paper bag. I think they used it to make cement! Not food grade I am sure but we made the best sweet pickles that I make to this day.
                                        If it would not be too much trouble might I have your recipe for the watermelon? My husband loves them and I have never had any luck. They are always sour. thanks and good luck Brenda Conkling

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: BrendaConk
                                          wolfe RE: BrendaConk Jul 7, 2011 02:51 AM

                                          As I said uplink that seems to have been mgcooke's one and only contribution to chowhound 5 years ago.Here are the recipes I found for you last year. Were they not good?

                                          1. re: wolfe
                                            Blamott RE: wolfe Aug 11, 2012 03:25 PM

                                            In San Francisco, you can find pickling lime at the Manila Oriental Market (on Mission near Alemany) or at many Mission District groceries. It is often on a wall rack in a glassine bag next to the chiles and other bagged spices. I found it impossible to find at health food stores (must be too "chemical" for Rainbow) or pharmacies.

                                          2. re: BrendaConk
                                            mshenna RE: BrendaConk Aug 28, 2012 02:10 AM

                                            It's pickling season again, & if you still want a recipe, this is mine, adapted from the old Sunset Favorite Recipes:

                                            I large watermelon
                                            Pickling lime solution to cover (proportion as directed on package; if you use the Asian lime/chuna, about 1 t. to 4 or 5 c. water is about right; you might want to experiment first, b/'c once it firms up, it is staying firm)
                                            2 c. cider vinegar
                                            7 c. sugar (the organic cane sugar at Costco is dynamite)
                                            1 T. whole cloves
                                            A few cinnamon sticks
                                            [A large chunk of peeled fresh ginger if you like it]
                                            More whole cloves

                                            Take off all the red flesh & eat it. Peel the tough green outer skin off & discard. Cut rind into rectangles, diamonds, or fancy shapes. Don't make them too small -- they shrink a bit. Soak the pieces for several hours or overnight in lime solution to cover -- again, if you don't have a package with quantities given, do a test first, or risk tough pickles. Rinse well & soak in fresh cold water for an hour. Drain. Put rind in a large non-reactive pan, cover with boiling water, & simmer until tender. Drain. In the same non-reactive pan, make a syrup from the 7 c. sugar and 2 c. cider vinegar. Add the cinnamon sticks, the tablespoon of whole cloves, & the ginger (if you like it), all tied up in a muslin bag, cheesecloth, or clean white cotton handkerchief (or a really big steel mesh tea ball, if you have one). Taste the syrup & add salt if you think it needs it -- the original recipe called for a salt soak, not lime, so I do add a bit here. Bring it all to a boil & add the drained rind. Simmer gently, uncovered, until it is translucent -- bring a book & a chair, b/c it takes a while. Stir it now & then. Remove the spice package & discard. Let rind sit in syrup 24 hours -- room temperature is OK, unless your kitchen is really boiling hot, but cover well in case of gnats etc. Next day, sterilize your jars. Stick a whole clove in each piece of cooked rind. [Enlist help at this point if you can; it is a very sticky business.] Put the rind pieces in the jars. Bring the syrup to a boil & pour over the rind to about 1/4 inch from top. Wipe rims & seal. Process 5 minutes for half pints, 10 for pints.
                                            This is a lot of work but it makes a lot of pickles, & for what it's worth, I've won blue ribbons the last three years with this recipe. They keep very well -- if the seal is intact, no need to refrigerate, but store them away from light.

                                          3. m
                                            mshenna RE: Jess Leber Aug 28, 2012 01:34 AM

                                            Or Mrs. Wages online: http://store.mrswagesstore.com/mrswag...

                                            Ball, which used to carry it, has some alternative pickling granule stuff that I haven't tried:

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