Get the most from your pickle jar. Flickr/apple_pathways
10 surprisingly useful things you can do with a jar of pickles.
After the summer cookout season dies down, a lot of us find ourselves stuck with half-empty jars of dill pickles wedged at the back of our fridges. Now that we’re not flipping burgers over a charcoal grill while sipping a cold beer or lemonade, it can be hard to find a productive use for these briny, crunchy cucumber chips and spears. But with a bit of creative thinking, you can give these BBQ sidekicks a second shot at glory.
Try these 10 less-obvious uses for your pickles (and the jars they come in).
-Come full-circle by using an empty pickle jar to make your very own batch.
Store-bought dill pickles have a place in the pantheon of traditional BBQ accents, but if you make the effort to pickle your own cucumbers, you’ll be rewarded with richer flavor and more flexibility to customize.
It can be tricky to find a second use for old pickle jars, largely because the pickling liquid imparts a strong scent and flavor with a tendency to linger. But if you use a discarded pickle jar to make your own batch, the abiding pickliness won’t be a problem. Plus, you can repurpose any leftover brine from the store-bought pickles to add an extra dimension to your own pickling liquid. For a full look at the process, check out this Lifehacker piece.
-Try a pickleback shot.
Pickle brine isn’t just good on a cucumber spear or in a savory relish. With its vinegar-based acidity and salt content, this liquid makes an unlikely but completely perfect partner for a shot of whiskey.
Invented in a Brooklyn dive bar, the “pickleback shot” involves taking a shot of whiskey (preferably, of bourbon), then chasing it with a shot of pickle juice. The flavors play off each other beautifully, giving you a robust one-and-done drink packed with enough electrolytes to make it an equally-excellent choice as a “hair of the dog” libation in the morning.
-Stay in the homemade-condiments game by using dill pickles in your own Thousand Island dressing.
A “salad dressing” that’s more famous as a sandwich spread (especially on Reubens), Thousand Island dressing comes with an air of mystery. In fact, it was for years the suspected key ingredient to the “secret sauce” used on Big Macs.
As it turns out, Thousand Island dressing includes mayonnaise, chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish, hot sauce, mustard, paprika … and, very importantly, dill pickle relish. If you follow the relish recipe above, you’ll be well on your way to whipping up your own Thousand Island dressing, and you can find a full recipe from HuffPost.
-Pickle juice will make your copper pots and pans sparkle
Thanks to its acidic nature, pickle juice makes a useful cleaning agent for copper pans and pots. Taste of Home tipster Agnes Ground insisted that you “save your pickle juice to clean the copper bottoms of your pots and pans. It works wonders!”
-Use pickle juice as a quick meat tenderizer/marinade.
Pickle juice includes both acid and salt, making it an ideal substance for tenderizing and marinating meat. Even tough cuts are no match for the power of pickle brine; just whisk the pickle juice with some minced garlic, ground pepper, and mustard, then brush the mixture on your meat of choice. Let the flavors get to know each other for at least an hour, then start grilling or roasting.
The result? A delicious, protein-packed dish that’s tender, tangy, and perfectly savory.
-Swap out your energy drinks for pickle juice
Speaking of electrolytes, pickle juice contains enough of these charged salts to make an effective and budget-friendly substitute for energy drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. When consumed in moderation, pickle juice can do everything from soothing muscle cramps to helping control your blood sugar levels to keeping you fully hydrated, according to Healthline. If you want to keep it simple, you can drink the pickle brine straight, but it works just as well when diluted with some H2O.
-Make your own relish.
A classic condiment for hot dogs that gets plenty of mileage during the summer, pickle relish can be used year-round to add an extra zing to sandwiches, cold salads, deviled eggs, and tartar sauce to pair with fried seafood. Sure, you can easily grab a jar of the ready-made stuff, but for a punchier version that you can easily customize to fit your preferences, use the dill pickles withering away in your fridge to create some handmade relish.
This recipe from Chef Michael Chiarello comes together in a flash and requires only some dill pickles, the brine they soak in, some hot or sweet mustard, and a few pinches of fresh dill. But if you’re in a creative mood, you can always add an extra kick of flavor by adding onion, garlic, shallots, or hot peppers.
-Put together a classic Cubano.
As anyone from Miami would be only too pleased to tell you, the Cuban sandwich (also known as a Cubano) is an absolute masterpiece. It’s rightfully famous for its use of slightly-sweet Cuban bread, roast pork, ham, and Swiss cheese, all pressed on a hot plancha until it fuses into one delicious and portable meal. The Cubano, however, includes one additional — and crucial —ingredient: dill pickles.
If you thinly slice the pickle spears in your fridge, they’ll be ready to layer atop the pork and ham and set your Cubano up for flavorful success, lending a welcome tartness to the richness of the sandwich’s other fillings. For a step-by-step assembly guide, try this recipe from Chef Jose Garces.
-Pickle juice can also be a gardener’s best friend.
Acidic soil can be a real boon to certain plants and flowers…and what contains lots of acids? Pickle juice, of course. According to One Good Thing, “hydrangeas and rhododendrons thrive in acidic soil. You can add pickle juice to the soil around these plants to help increase its acidity. Avoid pouring it directly on your plants, which could cause damage.”
OGT also praises pickle juice as a powerful weed killer, capable of taking down pesky plants like dandelions and thistles. And because it’s safe to consume, it’s a great pet-friendly herbicide.
-Freshen up the pickle jars and use them to store office supplies, sewing equipment, and other small goods.
Like their trendier cousins, Mason jars, the jars that store-bought pickles come in are the perfect size for holding small knick-knacks and craft supplies. But as we mentioned previously, the briny scent of pickling liquid can be tough to banish. Luckily, there’s an easy fix. On a HomeTalk message board thread about reusing pickle jars, commenter Loretta offers the following advice on freshening up these containers:
“If you dump some baking soda in [the jar] and allow it to sit for a few days with the lid on, the pickle odor will go away. I use these jars to hold pasta, rice, flour, sugar, etc. I have painted them, decoupaged them, and covered [them] with collages. They make great coin banks, can store just about anything, and can even be used for terrariums! The possibilities are endless.”