You might think reusing pickle juice is on the extreme end of reducing food waste, but here’s the thing: you’re not just saving the juice! Pickling is a good way to use up veggies that are starting to wilt, giving them a second (and delicious) life instead of tossing them. So you’re saving the pickle juice, while the pickle juice is saving the veggies!
Is it safe to reuse pickle juice?
It is if you use it to make what’s known as “refrigerator pickles”. This type of pickling isn’t truly preserving. They don’t get vacuum sealed and they only keep for about 2 months in the refrigerator.
Why can’t you make preserved pickles?
Pickle juice, or pickle brine, is actually a pretty scientific process! Recipes use carefully tested ratios of vinegar to salt to ensure whatever vegetable or fruit you’re using actually gets preserved.
The pickled cucumber, carrot or whatever gets the first-time-brine treatment will absorb some of that vinegar and salt (hence, the deliciousness), which means once used, the brine no longer has the right ratio for safe pickling and you shouldn’t try to use it for longterm canning.
How do refrigerator pickles work?
You want to start with clean, fresh veggies. Cucumbers are great, but so are green beans, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, turnips, beets or shredded cabbage.
Prepping your veggies depends on the type you’re using.
- Cucumbers have a lot of water in them and can go mushy, so you might want to salt your cucumber slices first, wait a few minutes, then pat dry with a clean kitchen towel to draw out some moisture.
- Harder veggies like cauliflower or root vegetables are usually best if you slice them very thin, or blanch them first (blanching means dunking them in boiling water for a few minutes, then quickly removing them and dunking them in cold water to stop the cooking).
- For green or yellow beans, it’s all about preference. Leave them as-is for a good crunch, or blanch them for softer beans. Same for shredded cabbage. You might want to blanch it first for more tender cabbage or leave it fresh for a good crunch.
Some people pour the pickle juice directly over the veggies, others swear by boiling the pickle brine first. If you boil the brine first and pour it - still hot - over the veggies, it does seem to absorb into the veggies a little faster.
Once you’ve combined your veggies and brine, put them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge. They’re usually ready to eat within 24 hours.
What do you use them for?
Anything! They can liven up a salad, make great sandwich toppings, yummy snacks or even use them as a drink garnish.
What should I look out for?
Remember that these are not fully preserved pickles. Refrigerator pickles usually last for about 2 months if properly stored in the fridge in a sealed container, like a lidded jar or plastic container with a tight fitting lid. As long as the brine looks clear, you’re ok, but if it starts to look murky, that could indicate bacterial growth and it’s time to toss.
How many times can I reuse pickle juice?
To be on the safe side, we wouldn’t recommend reusing it more than once, although some say you can safely reuse it 2 or 3 times. Again, watch for changes in the clarity of the brine.
BONUS! Refrigerator pickles aren’t the only use for pickle juice. You can also use it to flavour dips, salad dressings or even as a marinade!