Making pickles gives you control over the quality of your ingredients and of the final product. Unfortunately, homemade pickles don’t always turn out perfectly. If you’re making fermented pickles by soaking the cucumbers in a brine for a long period, a cloudy solution is no cause for concern. However, if you’re making quick-process pickles with vinegar, pickles sitting in a cloudy solution after you pull them out of the water bath and let them seal can be dangerous.
Smell and touch the pickles. If you’ve made quick-process, or fresh-packed, pickles, cloudiness can indicate that your pickles have spoiled or that airborne yeast has been introduced to your pickles. Typically, this causes your pickles to be foul-smelling and slimy or mushy. These pickles are not safe to eat and should be discarded immediately.
Examine your pots and pans. If you’ve used a metal pot to make fresh-packed pickles, the liquid in their canning jar can become cloudy. Metals, particularly aluminum, can react with the vinegar in your recipe to make the solution cloudy. The next time you make pickles, use a nonmetal pot or a pot with a coated metal surface.
Look at the salt you used. The type of salt you use for pickling can make fresh-packed pickles cloudy. Pickling and canning salt produce a clear solution, as do some types of kosher salt and sea salt. Table salt, however, contains additives that cloud pickling liquid.
Examine your pickling vinegar. Some types of vinegar contain sediments that can make pickling solutions cloudy. Use distilled white vinegar for quick-process pickling, or inspect your cider vinegar for sediment before using it in pickling recipes.
Consider your water. If you’re using tap water for pickling, a high mineral content can cause fresh-packed pickles to turn cloudy. The next time you make pickles, forgo the hard water from your tap and opt for distilled water. Alternatively, you can bring your hard water to a boil and leave it out, undisturbed, overnight. Use the top portion of the boiled water in your pickling recipe.
References and ResourcesPickled: From Curing Lemons to Fermenting Cabbage, the Gourmand's Ultimate Guide to the World of Pickling; Kelly Carrolata
Canning and Preserving for Dummies; Amelia Jeanroy and Karen Ward
Clemson Cooperative Extension: Common Pickle Problems
PickYourOwn.org: Answers to Common Pickling Problems
Colorado State University Extension: Making Pickles