Stop Pouring These Liquids Down the Drain and Start Using Them
They're just too good to waste.
I am a huge proponent of being cost-effective in the kitchen. So when certain products have me rinsing, draining, and then discarding half of what I spent my hard-earned dollars on, I’m not going to lie—I’m a little annoyed! However, what a lot of home cooks don’t realize about these seemingly useless liquids that they’re sending down drain is that these byproducts of other ingredients can and should be used. From cloudy cheese brines to aquafaba, we need to have a serious discussion about all of the liquids that you’re dumping into the sink straight off the jump, rather than cleverly making the most of your liquid gold.
Hopefully you know that pasta water does not belong in your sewage pipes, but if you’re still not sold on using it, let this be a reminder that you definitely should. The addition of this starchy component can revive a somewhat bland pasta dish while also helping the sauce bind to the noodles with the perfect, silky-smooth consistency. Any remaining pasta water can be frozen in large stock containers or in small cubes, which you can then add to stews, soups, risotto, and even gravy.
Getty Images; Credit: TSchon
Mozzarella Whey and Feta Brine
I’m sure you can relate to the disappointing feeling of fishing out all those mini balls of mozzarella or chunks of feta, only to have a half-full tub of murky cheese juice. What most people might not realize is that this opaque liquid that’s left behind is packed with flavor and protein. I mean, afterall, it is the bath that your precious cheese has been basking in—it should be no secret that it’s likely laced with some hidden treasures. That’s why you should go ahead and use these liquids in meat marinades, stews, soups, or homemade bread or pizza dough. You can even go ahead and cook your next batch of rice or grains using this, diluting or seasoning the recycled brine as necessary.
Once you’ve exhausted all those spears or chips, don’t you even think about sending that precious, salty AF pickle brine down the drain. Use it as a cocktail mixer (can somebody say, “PIIIIIIICKLEBACKS!”), pickle another veggie (onions, carrots, or do it all over again with some more cucumbers), add it to marinades, incorporate it into bread or focaccia, or live life on the wild side and slip some into a batch of homemade ice cream.
Canned Fruit Juice
From pineapple, to grapefruit, to orange, if you’re bidding farewell to the sweet remains of a fruit cup or canned fruit item, you’re doing it all wrong. This stuff tastes too damn delicious for you to be wasting it. Freeze the juice into ice cubes for cocktails or refreshing drinks, or turn the sweet liquid into a flavorful syrup. Stir it into baked goods for a kick of sugary goodness, or add it to a brine (like a ham, for example), and allow the natural acidity of the fruit juices to flavor the entire concoction.
Similar to pasta water, this starchy delight should not be overlooked. Next time you boil potatoes, go ahead and keep some of the remaining liquid to make fluffier mashed potatoes, more flavorful biscuits/doughs, or thicker soups/sauces. Just make sure you’re giving your spuds a good scrub if you’re cooking them with their skins on—don’t want you holding on to a load of dirty water, now.
The viscous liquid that’s left behind after you’ve drained a can of chickpeas does not belong in the trash. Do you hear me? Not only can this stuff be whipped into meringues or creams, but it can also be used as an emulsifier in a homemade mayonnaise. If you’re into vegan baking, this clever egg white substitute is about to become your new secret weapon. It even doubles as a cocktail booster, as you can whip it up into a frothy whiskey sour.