8 Legit Ways to Reuse Pickle Juice
With these staff-tested ideas for reusing pickle juice, homegrown goodness takes on a new life.
As a gardener, I like pickling cucumbers and other veggies and fruits to preserve my harvest (and my hard work). At the end of the pickle stash, though, I’m left with a jar of juice that seems useful, but how? Whether you make your own pickles, or buy them, the ideas below answer that question, and they’re ideas that I, or my coworkers, actually tried, so you can be sure they work.
As a Sports Drink
Most of the packaged pickle juice products you see are marketed for athletes. The touted benefits include reduced cramping and better hydration. Our SEO director at HGTV, Julia, is an avid runner who also happens to be going through treatment for breast cancer. She tried drinking pickle juice recently to boost her health and her body’s recovery. “I drank pickle juice as a way to relieve bone and muscle aches brought on by chemotherapy,” she said. “It seemed to work, though I’d guess the results were somewhat psychosomatic. I found that drinking a sports drink had the same effect and tasted better.” So the point here is: If you love pickles, use pickle juice as a sports drink. If you don’t, try some of the ideas below that don't involve ingestion.
Also note that the benefits touted for athletes are also touted for those with a hangover. For more on that, read on …
In a Pickleback
This well-known use of pickle juice takes a shot of pickle brine as a companion (a chaser) to a shot of whiskey or tequila. Nick Britsky, who works on our advertising team and runs NickDrinks.com on the side, says he served picklebacks, which are believed to have started at Bushwick Country Club in Brooklyn, a lot when he was bartending. Nick recommends McClure’s pickles, which is based in both Detroit (Nick’s hometown) and Brooklyn, for the drink. Why does it work? “Salt is an amazing addition to any cocktail and people have been drinking vinegar (shrubs) for centuries,” Nick says. “It only makes sense to pair them in a deconstructed type cocktail. It’s refreshing and daring all at the same time.” I like the way Nick can make two shots sound totally fancy.
To Pickle Other Things
I tried this recently when, after my husband finished off a whole jar of refrigerator pickles I made, we had all this brine leftover. I used the leftovers to pickle some cabbage that also needed to be used, and it worked perfectly. Pickling doesn’t have to be a long process involving canning and special supplies. If you have vegetables that would be good pickled, like onions, garlic, carrots or green beans, toss them in the jar of leftover pickle juice, and see what happens. They’ll make a nice addition to a charcuterie platter or Blood Mary.
In Savory Baked Goods
I see a lot of tips to use pickle juice in baking, particularly rye bread to make Jewish Deli Rye, and while I haven't tested that myself, I did use leftover pickle brine recently to make dehydrated flaxseed crackers (recipe from Recipes From the Herbalist’s Kitchen by Brittany Wood Nickerson), which is a similar idea. The simple crackers were excellent with a slight flavor of pickle that was interesting without being overwhelming.
To Acidify Soil
There’s ample information online about acidifying your soil to, for example, make your hydrangeas turn blue. (Soil is considered acidic at pH 5.5 or lower. More on that here.) A lot of folk wisdom mentions using vinegar for this purpose, since vinegar is acidic, and so pickle juice is considered an option. The problem is that pickle juice also contains salt, which can cause a plant to wilt. While in reality, acidifying soil requires changing the ratio of sulfur to calcium, a more scientific process, adding a little pickle juice into the soil around an acid-loving plant probably won’t hurt; just be sure to dilute it heavily with water so the salinity doesn’t shock the plant.
To Make Pickle Popsicles
This one’s a treat with the benefits of the sports drink, but more fun. I made pickle pops and had some coworkers test them. My recipe combined 1 cucumber, 1 cup pickle juice and a teaspoon of honey, blended and poured in popsicle molds (which made 6 pops). Julia, our resident pickle juice skeptic, said: “It’s basically frozen cucumber water with dill. It’s not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.” Jill, also on our SEO team, was pleasantly surprised. “It’s just like a savory popsicle. The zing is really refreshing. I thought it would be something a kid would like, but now I think it's more for an adult.” Two editors on our staff, Keri and Alley, really love pickles, so they were delighted with the same flavor in popsicle form.
To Clean Copper or Brass
I’ll be honest, I didn’t test this one personally, but we’ve tested enough similar cleaning hacks here at HGTV for me to know that this will work. To clean copper and brass, you basically need an acidic solution that will neutralize the grime. Pickle juice, like ketchup or even straight tomatoes (see below), should work. Just be sure, as always, to test your brine out on a small area of your metal pot or other object first to make sure it works as planned. If the test spot looks good, proceed with the pickle juice. If not, don’t (duh).
In Place of Vinegar for Anything
This one is basic, but sometimes the easiest things are also the easiest to overlook. Pickle brine is basically vinegar, which you use in all kinds of things if you’re at all into cooking: salad dressings, marinades, gazpacho, cocktails, baking. Save your pickle juice and use it in replacement for vinegar in favorite recipes. Remember that pickle brine contains salt, so you may need to adjust the salt amount in those recipes as a result, and expect the flavoring, such as dill or coriander or whatever spices were in the pickles, to infuse your recipe. Otherwise, it’ll work just the same.