Weekend Preserver Series: Skip the Salt?

Heading down the home preservation and whole foods path can lead to questions about salt in home canned foods.

Geez, that's so much salt! 

So, what's the deal?

In 1937 the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was charged with working on the complex problem of farming and rural poverty. Self-sufficiency thus home food preservation were a part of the program. Batesville, Georgia. June 1936. Library of Congress, Prints and Photography Division, FSA/OWI Collection, #LC-USF34-006366-D.


Salt can be safely reduced or omitted from nearly all home canned foods. Why? The salt isn't acting as a preservative. It is the heat during canning (boiling water canning or pressure canning) that kills the microorganisms that cause illness and death.

Keep in mind that flavor might be affected so consider keeping notes on the changes you have made to a recipe.

Exception: Home canned fermented foods such as pickles or sauerkraut--salt should not be reduced. I am not a fan of home canning fermented foods as we prefer wild foods but if you are canning a fermented food--use a reliable recipe. In other words, don't take any fermented food, pack it a jars, process it in a canner, and assume any type of food safety down the road. I am a fan of fresh pack pickles wherein vinegar (commercially produced with 5% acidity) is used so salt can be safely reduced or omitted.

What about salt substitutes?

Salt substitutes can be used for fresh pack pickles (pickled foods packed with vinegar and processed in a boiling water canner or steam canner). The mixture of sodium chloride and potassium chloride may affect the flavor--take notes to find a modification that you find acceptable. Salt substitutes shouldn't be used for fermented foods as sodium chloride is key.

Can I use any salt for home canning?

No. Avoid salts with iodine or anti-caking agents. Even kosher salts and fancy salts may contain these ingredients--so it's best to check. Iodine might darken pickles or inhibit fermentation. Anti-caking agents make brines cloudy.

Pickling salt, canning salt, or table salt should be used for fermented foods that are intended for canning following reliable recipes.

Measuring Salt

Keep in mind that salts vary in weight-to-volume. It's best to measure salt by weight. Plus, measuring spoons can vary in accuracy--your tablespoon and my tablespoon could be very different. Cook's Country tested measuring spoons in 2012 if you want to read more about measuring spoons and accuracy.

Don't worry I'm here for you: Based the weight of one cup of granulated table salt (289 grams) provided by the kind food scientists at the University of Washington, we can happily and easily know that 1 tablespoon weighs 18 grams and 1 teaspoon weighs 6 grams. Go forth and measure ye salt. 

Be safe and eat well.


Reliable Resources

Please be aware of acceptable modifications (University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension PDF, May 2015) that can be made to a home canning recipe--keep in mind that not all modifications, even popular ones are safe! 

If you are ever in doubt regarding safety, be sure to check a reliable resource. Even recently published books might contain recipes that are not suitable for safe home cannin