Is Using Alum in Home Canning Recipes Safe?

Canned Pickles
Canned Pickles | Source

Is It Safe?

I became interested in the use of alum when someone asked me if it was alright to use alum as a substitute in my Crispy Cucumber Recipe. So I started researching alum and I was surprised, because I used it at one time myself in my pickle recipes for home canning.

Alum is only considered safe if used in very small quantities in foods. Anything over 1 ounce can cause death even in an adult. Most pickling recipes that call for alum are handed down from our grandmothers. Alum is approved by the FDA and can be purchased at most grocery stores, but the FDA prefers we start to use other products.


What is Alum?

Alum is used to make fermented pickles crisp. It will not work with pickles that are fresh packed. It is not only used for pickling, but has many industrial uses.

Alum is a salt. It is produced by a chemical reaction between an alkaline metal and trivalent metal. It was used in some countries as an ingredient in deodorants. Another use was for a shaving powder that was used to stopped the bleeding of small cuts. It is often used for cold sores in very small amounts.

You might be surprised to know that baking soda also has trace amounts of alum, so it is safe if used in small amounts. It is used in industry also.

If You Do Use Alum

If a recipe calls for this ingredient, use it wisely. Don't use anymore than the recipe calls for and keep it out of the reach of children. Follow the rinsing instructions in pickle recipes religiously. I'm going to keep it out of the house, because I have older children that like to experiment with different spices in their foods.

The recipes for pickles will instruct you to thoroughly rinse the alum off several times. If you do use it, follow the instructions and make sure that you do rinse as many times as the recipe tells you to do. Don't skimp on this step.


Substitutes

Some better substitutes are pickling lime or a new product put out by the Ball Canning Company called Pickle Crisp. I have read the suggestion that you just omit the step of letting the pickles set overnight and don't use the lime or the alum. Then just put in the Ball Pickle Crisp in the bottom of the jars in the recommended amount and the pickles will be crisp.

My Conclusion

I think I will start staying away from using alum. If it can be poisonous in such small amounts and a safer product is available, why not use something safer?

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Comments 14 comments

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Wow, read and learn. I had no idea alum is what made pickles crisp, or that it was a deadly poison. Live and learn.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 5 years ago from USA Author

Old Poolman, I wouldn't have known this either, but someone asked if they could substitute for an ingredient in my pickle recipe and I started researching it. The way my kids play around dumping spices in everything, no way am I using it anymore.


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

I doubt there is any alum in my house, but this is good information to know.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

No kidding I wouldn't use it either I use to in the old days when canned. Good information.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

This product is called "salt peter" here in Jamaica and just recently a restaurant was closed by the authorities because there were several deaths resulting from the overuse of the product. As it turned out they seem to have been using the alum a little to frequently in theri cooking and maybe as a substitute for regular table salt.

This is a dangerous product and I would advise anyone to stay away from it.

When I was much younger the only uses I knew alum had was to ease a tooth ache. You would mix the alum with water and gargle the mouth for a few minute and the tooth ache would disappear.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 5 years ago from USA Author

Cardisa, Thanks for providing this additional information. I have heard of salt peter before, but I didn't know what it was.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 5 years ago from USA Author

moonlake, Thanks for your comment. I think everyone used it for pickling in the old days. I have a lot of the old time recipes that I've saved and most of them call for it.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very inspiring hub. I thought we must give attention to this. Nice hub and very informative as well. I learn much from you. Vote up!

Prasetio


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, Barbara, Oh my God! this made me panic, I suddenly realised that the deoderent that I use has alum in it! I changed from using the usual on the shelf products because this one was bought in the health store! it is supposed to be safer than the store ones!! I just ran across to my cupboard, and read the ingredients! I have just thrown it in the bin! Thank you! so much for safety! rated up as very useful! and bookmarked! cheers nell


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 5 years ago from USA Author

Nell Rose, I haven't checked my deodorant. Maybe I should. Now that you mentioned it I read something about this years ago. I makes sense, since skin would absorb it.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

OMG! I had no idea. Years ago I used it in canning. I have also seen it used in deodorant. Great, great information. So glad I read this. I found you in the forum for the hubchallenge. I wish you the best on completing the 30 hubs in 30 days. (I'm taking it too). :)


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 5 years ago from USA Author

vocalcoach, I used in pickle making years ago too. It is no wonder so many people have cancer and other diseases. I wish you the best of luck in the challenge too and I'll keep an eye out for your hubs.


sharon pierce 5 years ago

Glad to know this info.; I just used a little this year in some pickles and also have older recipes using it. AAlso, have been trying to get a natural deodorant that will work for me, as I believe to that many people probqbly get cancers from thes products with aluminum too. I do use white vinegar sometimes ,laugh, but got it from a booklet of uses of vinegar, olive oil.


Barbara Kay profile image

Barbara Kay 5 years ago from USA Author

sharon, Thanks for visiting the hub.

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