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Where can I find pickling lime?

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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

              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

            2. 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. 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

                  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

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

                2. 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

                    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

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

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

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

                                4 Replies
                                  1. re: takuhead

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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 :))

                                1. 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. 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. 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

                                        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. 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

                                          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

                                            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

                                            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. 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: