I can’t be the only one that has a fridge full of empty pickle jars with nothing but the pickle juice left in them? Making use of the leftover pickle juice or pickling liquor is something everyone should try doing.
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What Is Pickle Juice & Why You Should Use It?
What most people refer to as pickle juice is really just the acidic liquid that is left over after polishing off the pickles themselves.
What this pickling liquor is can be sweet, salty and of course, acidic and if you tip it down the sink then think again because you are missing out.
Is Pickle Juice Just Vinegar?
For the most part, you can think of pickle juice the same as vinegar in some cases it is primarily vinegar unless the pickles were fermented. The idea then is to use whatever pickling liquor you have leftover as a really flavourful vinegar.
Pickling liquor is full of the flavour of whatever it was used to pickle of course but also there are usually herbs, spices and a lot of seasoning which vinegar on its own doesn’t have so if you add this pickle juice to another dish you are going to not only liven it up with acidity but also boost the flavour because of the added seasoning and sweetness.
What Type Of Pickle Juice Do You Have?
Pickle juice will either come from a vinegar-based pickle or a fermented pickle. Both are acidic but there are a couple of differences.
Vinegar pickles are a lot more acidic than fermented pickles and are usually sweetened and flavoured with herbs and spices.
Fermented pickles usually have a lot more salt and because they contain a whole variety of good bacteria have a funky, tart acidity that is really unusual.
Reuse Pickling Brine From Ferments To Start New Ferments
Fermented pickles use lactobacillus bacteria to create an acidic brine and this leftover brine is great to kickstart new ferments.
The best way to utilise the bacteria in this brine is to add just a couple of tablespoons of it to a new batch of fermented pickles and this will kick start the new ferment quicker and start to build a really healthy culture. You can read more about fermenting vegetables here and if you don’t have any pickle juice leftover don’t worry as it is not strictly necessary.
How To Use Leftover Pickle Juice
To begin with, I would recommend you taste the pickling liquor to check a few things before you go and add it to anything else. The things to check are:
In most cases, either one, two or all of these things are going to be quite high. In which case you don’t want to use a lot of it and completely overpower a dish with salt or acid.
Once you know what it tastes like and what sort of impact it might have on what you are adding it to then try some of the following.
Make A Salad Dressing
Salad dressings are a great way to use pickle juice. They need acidity and plenty of seasoning, plus, a little goes a long way. Swap out the citrus or vinegar for pickle juice in the dressing.
Whisk together one part pickle juice to 3 parts oil as a base and then consider adding flavours like garlic or herbs and spices.
Make A Brine For Cuts Of Meat
I like to brine most of the meat I cook for at least a couple of hours or overnight. This adds flavour, seasons the meat all the way through to the centre and leaves the cooked meat whether it is steak, chicken or pork a lot juicier and more tender.
If you have leftover pickle juice that is quite salty then using it as a brine can be a great way to use it. I prefer fermented pickle juice as it isn’t quite so acidic but you can use a vinegar brine and maybe dilute it down with some water.
Marinades use acid to tenderise meat and salt and sugar to leave meat juicier after it is cooked. Adding a little leftover pickle juice will work wonders for this.
In the UK chips (fries in the US) require salt and vinegar, that is just the way it is. Swap the vinegar for pickle juice and you are good to go. I would apply this to any potato dish really.
Pickled onion vinegar is the best choice IMHO.
I have heard people taking shots of pickle juice but I can’t say this is one for me. If you think you might like it, why not?
Don’t Clean With It
I have seen it suggested elsewhere to use leftover pickle brine to clean. Anything from pans to worktops to sinks. I would say “do yourself a favour and not bother”.
Most pickling brines have salt, sugar and can be quite dark from whatever was pickled and although acidity can be good to clean the other stuff isn’t great. If you want to use vinegar then I would suggest distilled clear vinegar diluted in water to clean.