There Is Actually a Great Use for the Brine in Your Empty Pickle Jar and Here It Is
I'm an unapologetic pickle addict. At any given moment there are likely to be up to seven different open jars of pickles in my fridge. I'm talking fancy cornichons, neon green spears, dill chips for sandwiches and burgers, sweet gherkins for snacking, bread and butter chips, even a huge jar of those deli-style giant pickles… and that is just the cucumber pickles. Add in cocktail onions and pickled shallots for salads, pickled vegetables like dill green beans or carrots or spicy giardiniera mix, and of course capers, I am always happiest when I have the full range of pickly options.
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The downside to all this pickle madness is that I am frequently in possession of a jar that is empty of pickles, but half-full of pickle brine. I will use this elixir in things like marinades and salad dressings, instead of plain vinegar in aiolis, or for punch in things like potato salad or tuna salad.
But mostly? I just make new pickles with it.
How to use leftover pickle brine to make more pickles!
That brine usually has at least one second batch of quick pickles in it before it is spent and getting that last bit of bonus out of it always makes me feel smart. The process is pretty simple: Heat the brine to boiling, pour it over some new vegetables, let cool to room temp, then store in the fridge to consume within the next week or so. Boom. Second-chance pickles.
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You can pickle the same things that were in that brine before or mix it up. Pickling carrots in bread and butter brine makes for a sweet and sour carrot that is a great on a charcuterie board. Pickling sliced cucumbers in the brine from pickled onions will give them great onion flavor, making them amazing for burgers. Sliced onions in sweet pickle brine are perfect for salads, and pearl onions in caper brine will make for the best Gibsons you have ever tasted. Zucchini, yellow squash, and cauliflower florets all do great in a standard dill pickle brine.
Tips for brining different vegetables
Soft vegetables like cucumber or zucchini: Just pour the hot brine over the raw veggie.
Medium vegetables like green beans or onions: Add the vegetables to the brine just as it starts to bubble and cook for 30 seconds to a minute before transferring back to the jar.
Harder vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, or beets: Either par-cook to al dente before adding brine, or just add to the brine in the pot from cold and let them cook one to three minutes after the brine comes to the boil. Test for doneness before transferring.
Commercial pickle brines will have a more intense level of salt and vinegar than most home pickles. If you are working with homemade brine, give it a taste to see if you want to adjust either salt or vinegar levels for the new batch.
Note: This only works with vinegar-based brines. If your original pickles were a natural fermentation pickle, just save it to use as an ingredient, but don't try to make more pickles with it.