If you’ve been culturing vegetables for any length of time, then you’ve gotten to the bottom of the jar and found yourself with a bit of leftover brine.
Like so many things in the kitchen, this leftover brine can be used in a completely different way to serve a wonderful new purpose. Here are eight ideas for ways you can use leftover vegetable brine.
1. Use as a Starter Culture
Just as kombucha and milk kefir whey can be used as starter cultures in ketchup or pickles, so fermented vegetable brine can be used to inoculate a host of foods, such as sauerkraut, relish, or other cultured condiments.
2. Create a Perpetual Pickle Jar
If you’re primarily fermenting cucumbers, chunks of carrots or beets, or summer squash and other coarsely chopped vegetables, this is the perfect way to create an ongoing stash of fermented vegetables.
Once you run out of the vegetable and are left with the brine, chop up enough vegetables to fit below the level of the brine, weigh them down, and culture. Using brine from previous ferments can speed up the process as the bacteria are already at work in the cultured brine.
3. Use as “Vinegar” in Salad Dressing
Cultured vegetable brine can have quite the tang. That tangy liquid can be just as delicious as vinegar on a salad dressing. Plus, it adds enzymes and probiotics. Depending on the level of tang in your brine, you may need to use a bit more of the brine than you would vinegar, or add a touch of lemon juice for extra zip. Taste as you go and enjoy!
4. Create a Vegan Cold Soup Base
Many cold soups rely on cultured dairy. For a great vegan option, use leftover brine as the base for cold soups. Blend in avocado, fresh vegetables, and herbs for a refreshing, electrolyte-rich soup.
5. Mix into Various Recipes for Extra Tang
Ever made tuna salad and added pickle juice? That tangy flavor the enzyme-rich cultured vegetable brine can work the same. Mix it into the filling in deviled eggs or use it instead of lemon juice in a hummus recipe.
It can be used anywhere a recipe needs a little tartness from vinegar or citrus juice. And, the benefits of the cultured vegetables will be added into your favorite dishes.
6. Turn into a Savory Carbonated Beverage
If you’re a fan of tomato juice drinks, try bottling brine as an icy-cold beverage. Add flavorings like garlic, herbs, or onions. Add a spoonful of sugar for carbonation. The sugar will be consumed during the fermentation. Bottle it in air-tight vessel and ferment until bubbly. Chill or pour over ice.
7. Drink Like Kvass
Beet kvass is nothing more than the brine of a beet fermentation. Like beet kvass, brine would be drunk as a tonic. It might not be as delightful as kombucha or water kefir, but drink small amounts with a meal and reap its benefits.
8. Add to Compost
A composting method called Bokashi composting has origins in Japan. In this method, compost materials are inoculated with bacteria-containing liquids. The mixture is then placed in trenches and, due to the introduction of bacteria, the matter decomposes, or ferments, into compost quite rapidly. Try it in your garden!
When you love a batch of fermented vegetables, don’t toss the brine! As you can see, there are more ways to reap their benefits than just by adding the pickle to your plate.