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Mystery crystals in pickle pot

The last time I used my pickle I didn’t throw it out, but left it in
the crockpot. That was some months ago. Not a great plan, I know, but
that’s not the question I have.

When I went to use my pickle pot again, and discovered the stuff
still in there, there was a quantity of clear liquid and a veritable
forest of interesting crystal formations all over the bottom of the
pot. I was able to lift these crystals out whole. It didn’t appear to
have caused any damage to my crockpot.

I’m no chemist and have only a vague idea of what pickle is. Does
anyone know what these crystals are? They started life as water and
Sparex #2. I’m curious as to what they’ve morphed into, and whether
they have any usefulness beyond being interesting to look at.

Pam East

Hi Pam,

Most likely you will have a mix of sodium bisulphite (the Sparex)
and some copper salts (CuSO4 and ???) although I think they would
remain in solution as they (copper salts) are (for the most part)
much more soluble than the bisulphite.

I had this happen not too long ago (I forgot to turn the time off
when I left the workshop for the day), but I ended up with a layer
of planar crystals on the bottom of the pot that looked for all the
world like the micrographs you see of ice crystals, just that these
were real big naked eye objects. I just added some more distilled
water to the pot after I got through admiring them and went on with
my work. Pickle still worked great.

Cheers, Thomas.
Janstrom Designs.

1 Like

Hi Pam,

I'm no chemist and have only a vague idea of what pickle is. Does
anyone know what these crystals are? They started life as water
and Sparex #2. 

The crystals are mostly Sparex #2.

When you mixed the Sparex & water initially you made a saturated
solution. As some of the water evaporated the solution became super
saturated & couldn’t hold all the sparex in solution any longer. As
a result the Sparex returned to it’s solid state. All that you have
to do to get rid of the crystals is to add enough water to dissolve
the crystals. They’ll work just as good as new.


Dear Pam,

If it started life as Sparex 2 and water, then the crystals are
merely solid sodium bisulphite. As the solution has been there for a
few months, even if it’s had the lid on, some of the water will have

Basically in any solution, you have a solvent (in this case water)
and a solute (in this case sodium bisulphite). When making up a
solution, solute is added to solvent and it dissolves. You can carry
on adding solute until the solvent can no longer hold any more of the
solute the solid particles start to settle to the bottom. At this
stage you have a saturated solution.

What you’ve got now is basically where enough water has evaporated
such that you have a saturated solution, but instead of the solute
molecules just settling out of solution, they are attracted to each
other and “grow” just like the crystal gardens in kids’ chemistry
sets. The reason that you get the growth of crystals is that the
liquid has been undisturbed, whereas if trying to make a saturated
solution, you are either stirring the solution to dissolve the
solute or just the mere action of adding the solute disturbs the
liquid enough so as to prohibit crystal growth.

They serve no purpose other than what it was originally sold for.
You should be able to add more water, switch it on and re-dissolve
the crystals.

Does this make sense?



Can’t answer the question of what they are, but, I just add a tad
more water to mine and turn it on, they will dissolve again, and
your pickle will work fine.