Tips for cooking with pickled vegetables.
Just picked the last pickle out of the jar? Don't toss it out, save the liquid! The refrigerated juice from pickles, pickled peppers and sauerkraut has dozens of uses in everything from marinades and sauces to dips, soups and even drinks.
"Recycling" the juice also makes good economic sense. A good value to start with, pickled vegetables and their juices are an easy and relatively inexpensive way to pack extra flavor into foods. And with these ideas, you'll be eager to use every drop:
- Pickle and pickled pepper liquids make excellent marinades. They offer lots of gutsy flavor when simply combined with a little olive oil and chopped fresh herbs, or added to bottled Italian salad dressing.
- Sauerkraut juice is the basis for this zesty marinade for grilled pork and other meats. Combine 1 cup sauerkraut juice, 1/2 cup white grape juice, 1/4 cup oil and 1 clove chopped garlic with 1 tablespoon each of Dijon mustard, minced shallots, chopped fresh rosemary and chopped fresh thyme. Add black pepper to taste. The acid in the sauerkraut juice acts as a tenderizer, resulting in super-succulent meats.
- Most any barbecue sauce is better when doctored with a little pickle, pickled pepper or sauerkraut juice. The new and improved version will have a delightful tanginess not found in any bottled brand.
- Add cut-up raw carrots, celery sticks, broccoli and cauliflower florets, and red and green pepper strips directly to the jar of any type of leftover pickle juice. Make sure to keep these tangy tidbits refrigerated. The marinated veggies are great for snacking on straight from the jar or become an innovative addition to a crudité platter.
- Slip sliced onions into a jar of sweet-hot bread and butter pickle juice. The "pickled" onions liven up turkey, chicken or ham sandwiches, as well as hamburgers.
- Pickle liquid mixed in with the mayo can give a new twist to your time-honored potato salad. Or, try this Dilled Potato Salad: combine cooked red- skinned potatoes, cooked-till-crisp-tender green beans, sliced black olives and chopped dill pickle. Toss with a dressing of 1/3 cup oil, and 1 Tablespoon each of pickle liquid, country-style Dijon mustard, lemon juice and chopped fresh dill.
- For a version of macaroni and cheese that's definitely not like Grandma's, blend 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup heated pickled pepper juice and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard; pour over 4 cups cooked elbow macaroni in casserole dish. Stir in 2 cups shredded cheese, top with bread crumbs and bake until bubbly. Add chopped pickled peppers for a colorful variation.
- Gazpacho, a cold summer soup that makes the most of garden veggies, is a refreshing start to any meal. In a blender or food processor, puree tomatoes, onions, green pepper, and cucumbers or zucchini. Thin with a little tomato juice and add hot pickled pepper juice to taste for a tangy zip.
- Want to give some gusto to a Bloody Mary . . . add pickle juice! The piquant elixir is a delicious complement to the tomato juice. Don't forget to garnish with a pickle spear instead of the usual celery stick! For a fiery brunch treat, try a Hot Blooded Mary. It features a splash of hot pickled pepper juice and a pickled cherry pepper garnish.
- You've heard of squeezing a wedge of lime into your beer. Now, adding some dill pickle juice to your brew could be the next craze. Stir 1/8 cup dill pickle liquid into 12 ounces of your favorite beer and garnish with a pickle spear or baby dill.
Of course, some folks even drink pickle and sauerkraut juice straight as a tonic! We've even heard of athletes who drink pickle juice as a way to replenish the salt after their workouts.
While those libations may not be your cup of tea, with so many great uses for the juices, pickled vegetables are certainly good to the last drop.
The pickle has been on quite a culinary journey, first enjoyed thousands of years ago in Northern India, then gaining fans in Europe and eventually arriving in America. Today, chefs all over the world use pickles to add distinctive taste and flair to their favorite dishes. So if it's time to revamp the menu or add some spice to a new one, remember that pickles are a well-seasoned traveler - they're inexpensive and versatile, and can do much more than dress up a plate.
There are hundreds of kinds of pickles to try. Among them are:
Most cucumber pickles are made by one of three methods: refrigerated, processed or fresh pack:
Few foods could be considered more a part of Americana -- we've been eating pickles since Christopher Columbus discovered America. Since then, the pickled cucumber has evolved into a favored snack and recipe ingredient that is available in more than 36 varieties.
Pickle history began sometime around 2030 B.C., when inhabitants of Northern India brought cucumber seeds to the Tigris Valley. Soon, cucumber vines were sprouting throughout Europe. Shortly thereafter, people learned to preserve the fruits of their labor by pickling them in a salty brine. By the 17th century, the crunchy pickled cucumber had made its debut in the New World. Early colonists grew so fond of them that in 1820, Nicholas Appert constructed the first pickle plant in America.
In fact, America was named for a pickle peddler -- Amerigo Vespucci. He was a ships chandler, outfitting vessels scheduled for long explorations with vitamin C-packed pickled vegetables -- particularly cucumbers -- to prevent scurvy among crew members.
Through the years, pickles enjoyed a flourishing reputation. From continent to continent, the world's most humorous vegetable made an in-dill-able impression on monarchs, presidents and even military men. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, believed they contributed to health and beauty. Queen Elizabeth I developed a passion for pickles, as did Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Troops under Julius Caesar and Napoleon relished the thought of having crunchy pickles at meal time, and during World War II, the U.S. government earmarked 40 percent of pickle production for the Armed Forces.
Pickles also played a part in folk medicine. Many people believed that sour pickles helped balance the acid-alkaline content of the body and destroy bacteria in the digestive tract.
Many modern-day celebrities are reported to be passionate about pickles. Actor Bill Cosby, sexy Brooklyn-born actress Fran Drescher (The Nanny), ex-New York Mayor Ed Koch and Guardian Angel-founder Curtis Sliwa are just a few recognizable names that are rumored to be pickle connoisseurs. Late Night host Conan O'Brien has a giant plastic pool pickle in his office, and hip-swiveling rock 'n' roller Elvis Presley liked to eat fried pickles.
Now in their 4,000th year, pickles are big business. They grow in more than 30 states, with Michigan and North Carolina the prime purveyors of pickled produce. And because Americans are so passionate about pickles, pickle packers everywhere continue to work hard to produce pickle products to please even the pickiest palate.
Sauerkraut is made from the crisp center leaves of the finest quality cabbages which are shredded, salted and cured for several weeks in huge wooden or concrete vats.
Americans annually consume 387 million pounds of sauerkraut, or about 1.5 pounds per person per year.
In addition to the traditional sauerkraut, other varieties also are available:
Sauerkraut continues to be the country's second favorite hot dog topping after mustard, and millions of pounds are used in Reuben and other deli sandwiches each year. As it becomes better known as a flavorful, low-calorie, no-fat food, it is being included in more innovative dishes around the country.
Approximately 330 million pounds of cabbage are grown each year in the United States. The states that produce the most cabbages for sauerkraut are Wisconsin, Ohio and New York.
Sauerkraut is available in cans, jars and polybags. The polybags are found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket and need to stay refrigerated.
*Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Prevention, a booklet by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
If Peter Piper were around today, he would be proud of the proliferation of pickle and pickled pepper products! When combining all the basic types, varieties and cuts of pickles and pickled peppers, there are hundreds of styles from which to choose a favorite (or favorites!).
Today, in addition to the pickle and pickled peppers that we've known and loved for years, pickle manufacturers are following America's demand for more flavorful - mostly hotter and zestier -- and convenient products. Now there are sliced-lengthwise-for-sandwich pickles, which are available in flavors including zesty, fresh kosher, dill -- soon there will be Cajun flavor! Another new pickle "shape" is the small pickles created specifically for snacking out of hand. These new pickles are made from small, miniature cucumbers and can be eaten in two to three bites. They're already available in a Cajun flavor, as well as in kosher dill and bread & butter.
Most pickles are produced by one of three methods: refrigerated, fresh-pack or processed (also called "cured" or "fermented"). Each of these methods creates distinct flavors and textures. Also during production, a variety of flavors are achieved by adding different herbs, spices and seasonings to the pickle liquid. Then, each variety is generally packed whole or cut in halves, spears, sticks, chips, chunks, salad cubes or relish, or sliced lengthwise for sandwiches.
Here is an overview of the various kinds of pickles and pickled peppers available.
Dill: Dill is the most popular variety of cucumber pickle. Herb dill or dill oil is added to impart a distinctive and refreshing flavor. There are many types of dill pickles, including:
Sour/Halfsour: Fresh cucumbers are first placed into a seasoned brine which doesn't include vinegar. The containers are then refrigerated, and remain refrigerated when stored and shipped. The longer the cucumbers remain in the brine, the more sour they become. Half-sour pickles are extra crispy and keep their fresh cucumber color.
Sweet: Sweet pickles are packed in a sweet mixture of vinegar, sugar and spices. Here are some variations:
Pickled Peppers: Made in the same way as cucumber pickles, there are more than fifteen varieties of pickle peppers available, ranging from mild to hot, hot, hot. These are some of the most popular pickled peppers:
Specialty Products: Not only are pickles and pickled peppers very popular, but there is a wide variety of pickled vegetables on the market today. Some are found nationally, others regionally. They include pickled asparagus, beets, cauliflower, cocktail onions, green tomatoes, okra, sauerkraut, sweet mixed vegetables, sweet pickles with raisins, and more.
Here is a brief look at the various types of pickles and pickled peppers available today.
No menu would be complete without all-American hot dogs and hamburgers. But, of course, the trick is giving these favorite foods a mark of distinction while keeping costs under control. Take a cue from Peter Piper and pick from a peck of pickles and pickled peppers to make terrific value-added meals!
Pickles from sweet to dill and pickled peppers from mild to hot are excellent foils for beef, chicken and turkey burgers and make tasty companions for frankfurters. Whether used as a unique topping, blended into the meat or served simply on the side, pickles and pickled peppers make hamburgers and hot dogs much less ho-hum for practically pennies.
The Reuben -- that delectable combination of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye bread -- is celebrating more than 60 years as one of America's best loved sandwiches.
The concoction was invented by Reuben Kulakofsky during a break in the action of his weekly poker game at the Blackstone Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska. Kulakofsky, a deli owner by trade, assembled his now-famous namesake from fixins in the hotel's kitchen. Before long, the unusual combination became the unlikely star of the Blackstone's menu.
Lady Luck followed the sandwich when it won the National Wheat Flour Institute's Sandwich Idea Contest in 1956. By then, the Reuben had become a huge hit throughout the rest of the country.
The streak has continued over the years as Reuben renditions have appeared in everything from soups and salads to casseroles, omelets and even pizza. In fact, Pickle Packers International, the trade organization for the nation's pickle and sauerkraut industry, has tracked and catalogued Reuben recipes since the sandwich's creation. The group has recipes ranging from Reuben Salad to Reuben Pizza.
Some of the newest Reuben variations are skinnier versions of their former selves, reflecting today's lighter eating habits.
Try experimenting with various meats - for example, corned beef can be replaced with lean smoked turkey. Or, substitute low-fat Swiss cheese for regular. But don't give up the piquant sauerkraut - it provides the Reuben's signature flavor with very few calories and without a single bit of fat.
One thing's for certain -- no matter how many variations, good taste, if not good fortune, is sure to follow.
Got a craving for a little something? When a cookie won't do, potato chips are a no-no and rice cakes are a bore, why not reach for a crunchy pickle?!
While you may not have thought of them as a snack, pickles make a terrific munchie. For one thing, low-calorie pickles -- there's only 15 in a large dill -- won't ruin appetites or destroy diets. And while there's no fat in pickled vegetables, there is good nutrition. Snacking on 1/8 cup of pickles counts as one of the 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables the USDA recommends.
Of course, the best and easiest way to nosh on pickles is right from the jar and out of hand. Some companies have developed pickles specifically for snacking! However, there's a host of other ideas for tasty pickle snacks:
Go ahead and munch a bunch of pickles!
What's for dinner? If you're one of the millions of Americans on a diet, that question might very well elicit a giant yawn. Once you forego the fat, forget about frying and skip the sauces, there's not much left with taste, right? Wrong!
Pickle Packers International, the trade association for the pickle and sauerkraut industry has a suggestion: add pickled vegetables! Ounce for ounce, it's hard to beat the flavor that pickles, pickled peppers and sauerkraut can add to meals in return for very few calories and no fat.
Here's the skinny on these low-cal vegetables:
The sky's the limit when it comes to ways to incorporate pickles, pickled peppers and sauerkraut into light and lean menus. Here are a few ideas:
Of course, one of the best ways to shape up with pickles is to eat them out of hand as a snack. With very few calories and satisfying flavor, they're the ultimate guilt-free indulgence.
© 2013, Pickle Packers International, Inc.
Pickle Packers International, Inc. is a trade association for the pickled vegetable industry.