U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers have found a way to replace much of the salt in pickling brine with calcium chloride, making a more environmentally friendly liquid.

The U.S. pickling industry has been facing the increasing challenge of disposing of the salty brine used to transform cucumbers into pickles, according to a news release.

In fact, that same challenge was the reason why much of California's olive pickling and processing migrated overseas in the 1980s.

Microbiologist Illenys Perez-Diaz, food technologist Suzanne Johanningsmeier and now-retired chemist Roger McFeeters, all based in Raleigh, N.C., developed a way to replace most of the salt in the brine with calcium chloride.

The used calcium chloride solution can be used as a soil amendment rather than a pollutant disposal problem.

Not only does the calcium chloride help the cucumbers retain their firmness during the process, but it also speeds up fermentation.

The technology has already been used commercially at the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. in Mt. Olive, N.C., where 66,000 bushels of cucumbers were turned into dill chips and several pickle relishes and salad cubes in 2013.

Although it represented just a small part of the company's overall annual production, it proved the process worked on a commercial sale.