You’ve crunched on the last pickle in the jar — but what to do with all the brine that’s left? Don’t pour it down the drain! This delicious liquid adds lots of interesting flavours to your favourite recipes.
What Is It?
Pickle juice is simply a salt-and-vinegar-based brine. It may contain herbs (such as dill, oregano or chives), seasonings (bay leaves, hot pepper flakes or caraway seeds) and other flavour boosters (garlic or onion). The liquid seasons the vegetables as it preserves, or pickles, them.
With so many different varieties available, pickle juice can vary tremendously in flavour. What doesn’t change is how great it is at enhancing other foods and drinks. And it’s so convenient — just a spoonful adds a huge burst of tangy saltiness.
The brines for some pickles, like bread-and-butter, also contain sugar. And individual cultures and nationalities use characteristic seasonings that make them unique. Kosher-style pickle brines get generous additions of garlic and dill. Polish-style ones usually contain even larger amounts of spices and garlic, and often mustard seeds. And delicate French gherkins skip the sugar in favour of a sour brine made with vinegar and tarragon.
Delicious Ways to Use Pickle Juice in Recipes
So which one to choose? Here’s a quick guide to the many brines out there, and the flavour boosts they offer certain dishes.
- Dill pickles: These are some of the most common pickles available in North America. Their zesty, dill-scented brine makes a tangy addition to vinaigrettes, sauces and dill pickle soup (a favourite in Poland). It’s also a wonderful partner to potatoes — drizzle a little over boiled or roasted spuds, stir it into the dressing for our creamy Dill Pickle Potato Salad or dip fries in a sassy mix of mayo and pickle juice. Looking for a fun cocktail idea? Try a Pickletini (vodka or gin stirred with pickle juice) or a Pickleback (a shot of whisky chased with a shot of pickle juice).
- Sweet cucumber pickles: Sugar in the brine gives bread-and-butter pickles and sweet gherkins a sweet edge. Try adding the juice to your favourite barbecue sauce for a little extra zip, or to chicken, tuna or pasta salads.
- Sour gherkins: The sour vinegar brine from these mini French pickles lends a zesty, mouth-puckering hit of flavour to drinks. Use it to give a Pickletini a tart, lip-smacking edge.
- Pickled beets: Earthy tasting and bright magenta, this brine can be a bit on the sweet side. It’s an easy shortcut for making pickled eggs: Just toss in a few hard-boiled eggs for a yummy, rosy-coloured snack.
- Cocktail onions: This briny, sweet pickle juice is often enhanced by peppercorns, juniper berries and coriander seeds. It’s tasty in place of vinegar in salad dressings or drizzled over roasted vegetables.
- Pickled hot peppers: To give a subtle spicy note to beef stew or chili, add a few spoonfuls of the juice from a jar of pickled banana peppers, pepperoncini or jalapeños.
- Pickled mixed veggies: Jardinière (also known as giardiniera in Italian) is a mix of peppers, celery, carrots and cauliflower packed in a vinegary brine. It adds a pleasant tang and subtle vegetable flavour to poultry dishes or Classic Mixed Bean Salad .
- Pickled green beans: The fresh-tasting brine in dilly beans, such as our Quick Pickled Beans with Garlic and Dill, is a yummy substitute for plain vinegar in vinaigrettes. It’s also excellent in a caesar — whether it’s the salad or the drink (like our Ultimate Canadian Caesar).
- Capers: This salty, vinegary brine has a bold flavour that’s wonderful in hearty pasta sauces or seafood dishes.
Other Creative Uses for Pickle Juice
Adding this flavour booster to recipes is a terrific idea, but there are other exciting ways to put it to work in the kitchen.
- Marinate foods: Pickle juice tenderizes meat and is delicious on pork or steaks. Some chefs even swear by soaking chicken in this tangy liquid before deep-frying. You can also marinate cubes of any mild cheese in it for a quick appetizer.
- Season butter: Blend softened butter with pickle juice and chopped fresh dill. Shape into a roll and toss it into the freezer. Top steamed salmon or other fish with a pat or two for incredible flavour.
- Make more pickles: Toss baby carrots, celery sticks, beets, radishes or even grapes into a jar of leftover pickle juice. Refrigerate for a few days, and you have a fresh batch of pickles.