By Andrea Nisely, UNL Extension Educator, Dawson County

Salt is generally added to canned foods to enhance their flavor. Canning or Pickling Salt is recommended for home food preservation. 

With the exception of fermented pickles and sauerkraut, salt is an optional ingredient. Salt can be omitted when canning tomatoes, vegetables, meats, poultry, and seafood since the amount added does not contribute to the safety of the food. However, in fermented sauerkraut and brined pickles, salt not only provides flavor but also is vital to safety since it may encourage the growth of desirable bacteria while inhibiting the growth of others. Therefore, do not attempt to make sauerkraut or fermented pickles by cutting back on the salt required. 

A description and recommendation for use of the different types of salt include: 

  • Canning salt or pickling salt is pure salt, no additives. This type of salt is the best choice for canning, pickling, and sauerkraut.
  • Table salt is safe to use for canning. However, it usually contains anticaking additives that may make the brine cloudy or produce sediment at the bottom of the jar. Iodized salt is not recommended for any home food preservation because it may cause darkening, discoloration, or spotting.
  • Kosher salt is a coarse, flaked, pure salt that also can be used in canning. Since flaked salt may vary in density, it is not recommended for making pickled and fermented foods, especially when salt concentration is a critical factor for microbial growth.
  • Sea salt is evaporated sea water and contains various minerals. It is safe to eat, but minerals in the salt may cause canned foods to discolor or affect the flavor.
  • Salt substitutes contain chemicals that provide a salty flavor but little or no sodium. Most salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. Some people think the potassium chloride has a metallic taste. Do not substitute potassium chloride for sodium chloride in fermentation recipes.

Here are some ways to reduce sodium and add flavor.Lower the sodium content of sauerkraut or pickles by rinsing the product with water just before heating and serving. Never do this before canning.

  • Lowering the salt content of fermented products before canning will lower the acid content and possibly create an unsafe product.
  • Serving foods with spices and herbs adds flavor without the addition of salt.Canning and freezing may intensify the flavor of herbs. U
  • se sparingly at first until you determine the suitability of a particular herb. 

Remember, salt is an optional ingredient for canning foods except for fermented products.