Cucumber Pickled in Reused Brine, or Quick Secondary Pickles

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What do you do once your jar of pickles is empty? Some people keep the vinegared brine and add it to different sauces, but, I bet, most of you throw it away, just like I did until I discovered a fantastic way to give this aromatic liquid a second life. One day I simply cut up a piece of cucumber, put it into the leftover brine, refrigerated and waited. After two days I obtained crunchy, delicately vinegared “secondary” pickles. Since then I make sure all my pickling brines are reused.

As a regular pickler, I was particularly thrilled to discover how to recycle the brines from my processed long-term pickles, but this method also works with bought pickles, as long as the brine contains only natural ingredients. (I don’t advise however reusing the brine from what some people call “refrigerator” pickles, i. e. which have not been processed in a traditional way.) My favourite brine comes from pickled chillies and ginger, but the ones from pickled cucumbers or sweet peppers are also delicious.

TIPS: This method works only with vinegared brine (not salt brine from fermented chillies, cucumbers, etc.) and I have tested it only with traditionally processed and industrially processed vinegared brine.

This is a short-term fridge pickling method. Do not try making traditional processed long-term pickles with reused brine.

Make sure you refrigerate the secondary pickles from the moment you put them into the brine (I have never tried leaving them at room temperature, so I have no idea if it’s safe).

If you want to accelerate the process, warm the brine just before putting the cucumbers into the jar.

Until now I have only tried cucumber pickled in different leftover vinegared brines, but I’m sure other vegetables can be prepared this way too.

I wouldn’t advise stretching the brine’s life to a third pickling process. I did it twice and the cucumbers ended up inedible every time.

Preparation: 5 minutes + 48 hours pickling

Ingredients:ย 

a jar of vinegared brine left after all the pickled vegetables (chillies, cucumbers, sweet peppers, ginger…) have been eatenย 

well washed cucumber cut into slices, half-slices or 1/4 slices

Place the cucumber pieces into the vinegared brine.ย All the pieces should be covered by the liquid.

Close well the jar.

Put into the fridge for 48 hours. Eat them throughout the following two or three days.

28 thoughts on “Cucumber Pickled in Reused Brine, or Quick Secondary Pickles

  1. mjskit

    Hey Sissi! This is so cool because I do the same thing but with onion slices! I’ve never used cucumber, but next time….What a great idea! I also do the same with olive brine. This is definitely an easy and delicious thing that people as missing out on. Good for you for letting everyone know your secret! Thanks for the warning on a 3rd round. I’ve never tried it and now I won’t.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, MJ. Onion slices sound fantastic! I must try them. Thank you so much for the tip. I have never tried olive brine either (it’s only salty, not vinegared, so I had no idea it might be useful).

  2. Eva Taylor

    A very simple idea and yet, no one but you has thought of it! FANTASTIC! I remember my Mom’s pickles were so tasty but once they were gone, they were gone! I wish I had known about this fantastic recycling method! I can just imagine the lovely subtle pickle flavour that these fresh cucumbers take on. On top of it, we all hate to throw away food, so this is really perfect! I’m still a little afraid of pickling but one of these days I will for sure and you will be my first stop!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Eva. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but it’s true I had this idea on my own. It’s such a pity to throw away the brine… and it can be used in sauces only in small amounts.

  3. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles

    OMG, I’m so glad you posted this!!! I honestly never thought to reuse the brine from my pickle jars (of which we have many) to pickle veggies (now that’s my kind of low maintenance pickling ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). And here’s why I’m especially excited — we have a tradition of eating cheese fondue on december 24th (part of our reveillon) — a necessary component of the fondue is sour/vinegar pickled baby onions but I could not find any to save my life in CA :(. They only have the sweet ones (and I’ve tried to soak the sweet ones in vinegar but it’s of no use — the sugar penetrates the delicate skin, it’s over). Now, with this idea, my thought is to buy the little fresh onions, peel them and dunk them in the leftover pickle brine and let’s see what happens. Do you think olive brine leftover would work equally well? (we have lots of those too ๐Ÿ™‚ ) – love it Sissi!! You’r so clever. And now I’m also thinking sliced carrot, peppers, of course your lovely cucumber… the sky’s the limit :).

    1. Sissi Post author

      Dear Kelly, thank you so much for all the compliments and kind comment! First of all, I must tell I’m very jealous of the small onions. I have never seen them sold anywhere, at any nearby market… I wish I could buy them and pickle. My pantry would be full of small pickled onions. If you find fresh small onions, pickle them in standard, long-term way (if you are afraid of processing, just proceed until the jars are closed and then keep them in the fridge, but do use a new brine for these small treasures). I think since small onions are not as thin as cucumber slices, they will not take much of the reused brine, but if you prepare them in new vinegared brine (I think my pickled cucumbers recipe (http://www.withaglass.com/?p=14909) would be good for onions too: in France cucumbers and onions are often pickled in the same jar). Please let me know if you need any help or information! Sliced carrot sounds like a great idea though for these quick pickles! These recycling method produces only slightly vinegared pickles (the vegetables don’t absorb as much vinegar as they did in the first use of the brine).
      Olive brine is only salty, not vinegared, so even for such short-term pickles, it wouldn’t be the same (though MJ says she pickles sliced onion in leftover olive brine; I must test it!).
      Good luck, Kelly!

  4. Juliana

    I love making pickles…Asian ones, but never thought in reusing the brine…thanks for the tips and I will keep it in mind next time pickling.
    Hope you are having a fabulous week ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. Mr. Three-Cookies

    Like the recipe, two ‘ingredients’, three steps, which includes eating everything within 2-3 days:)
    Another recipe for using used brine involves lot of alcohol. I think you can guess the recipe – trying to fix a hangover:)

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks a lot, Mr. Three-Cookies. You mean the fermented salty brine? Yes, it’s perfect for a hangover, but not only: it’s very healthy and full of vitamin C.

  6. Elisabeth

    Sissi, you are indeed the ‘pickling Queen’ for sure. I have a different method of re-using the ‘pickled juice’ as they are called another way. I use them for potato salad, and also throw in some veggies, such as carrot pieces, celery, onion pieces, and sometimes cauliflower…but I always, boil them when I re-use them for my veggies, and add a little more vinegar, and more pickling spices to freshen the flavor…otherwise to me…they seem a little flat. The reason I re-boil them for fear of ‘germs’ since in my home everybody loves pickles; even the little grandchildren; they use their fingers to take the pickles from the jar, and…you get the picture!!

    For my private stash…I do love your method with the cucumber pieces, and will try it out…right now I have about 3 Kirby pickles and they need a ‘new home’…lol!
    BTW-did you know that pickled brine is also good for cleaning copper?…(I’m the ‘thrift gal, remember?)

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Elisabeth, for your kind words. You are exagerrating of course! As I have mentioned in my post these cucumber pickles are very delicate (if you have ever had Japanese vinegared cucumber, this result is similarly delicate), so I understand you might want to add vinegar to make the brine stronger. I like both very vinegared pickles (which I prepare as long-term pickles) and these “instant” pickles which are very delicate, hardly pickled, perfect for delicate meals or days when I don’t feel like having strong ones.
      I suppose cauliflower, celery etc. wouldn’t even get anything out of this brine, unless sliced (just like I do with cucumbers) because as you say, the brine is not as strong as before.
      Luckily no one uses fingers in my house to take pickles out of the jar ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Thanks a lot for the cleaning tip! I have already heard about vinegar alone, but this is also a great way to use up the brine! (On the other hand it would make me very hungry to smell the pickles in the house!). Oh, and thank you for the term “pickled juice”. I didn’t know it.

      1. Elisabeth

        Sissi, I’m not exaggerating…I do think you are amazing with your pickling techniques! Sad to say, but I have not been able to find Japanese pickles here, in WPB Florida, so I wouldn’t know how delicate they are…and yes, I do use small pieces or semi-thin spices of the various vegetable for the pickled juice; and I only buy the expensive Kosher pickles that are in the refrigerated section of my grocery supermarket. There’s another brand on the grocery shelf called ‘Vlasic’ is a very good brand-requires refrigeration after opening, and is crunchy and really good. I don’t often make homemade pickles but now I will. I think the English seedless cucumber might compare to the Japanese which is more delicate!

        1. Sissi Post author

          Elisabeth, you are really sweet ๐Ÿ™‚ In my opinion pickling doesn’t require any skills really (maybe apart from seasonings and in general creativity but this is a question of personal taste/preferences) once you have a good basic recipe. It’s usually easier and quicker than jam making! (Especially if you have to peel the fruit and cook it for a long time). The only pickles I buy are Indian ones and French cornichons because making your own cornichons is a nightmare and I have never managed to obtain satisfactory results (the tiny gherkins have to be prepared in a very fussy way).
          Since you told me about your climate, I am not surprised you don’t pickle a lot. Even huge American fridges have limits while a pantry/cellar can contain hundreds of jars. For me pickling (or in general preserving) is preferable when made in big batches, unless I transform something very expensive or make a new experiment (most of my preserving recipes were scaled down here). If I prepare five or ten jars, the difference in effort is minimal and it takes maybe ten-fifteen more minutes with a double batch. It’s also nice to make a pickling laboratory out of your kitchen as rarely as possible ๐Ÿ˜‰
          I’m sorry, when I compared the taste of these secondary pickles I shouldn’t have probably called Japanese vinegared side dishes (sunomono) as pickles… I have meant something like this Vinegared Cucumber and Seaweed (http://www.withaglass.com/?p=9911). You prepare it in 15 minutes, then chill it and the vinegared instant pickled cucumber is ready. I would never think of buying such a dish because it’s so simple and quick, it takes more time to go to a shop than prepare it. The result is completely different from Western idea of pickles. The taste is not even half as harsh! (I still remember the shock on the face of my Japanese friend when she tasted Western-style pickled cucumber! It was so violent for her!).
          I don’t think I have ever had seedless cucumber. The only ones I tasted were big long ones, short “pickling” ones and tiny pinkie-long cornichons.

  7. Yi @ Yi Reservation

    I keep a large jar of pickled vegetables at all time and cucumber has always been in that jar! And I was also taught to re-use the brine (even with the salt only brine). This is such a great post! Thanks!

  8. Charles

    Hi Sissi, thank you for sharing such a wonderful idea! I had never thought of such a thing before. I will definitely try it the next time we finish a jar of pickles, since I sure love me some pickles! I can easily eat them like candy. I remember I ate an entire jar of pickled onions one day while watching a film. The next morning I woke up in the summer sunshine and wiped my forehead which had a distinctly vinegary smell! ๐Ÿ˜€

    By the way – when you say they were inedible after a third pickling… in which way? Do you mean they’d gone bad, or just weren’t tasty at all?

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks a lot, Charles. I don’t know why I had this idea so late… it’s so obvious! The third reuse made mouldy tasting cucumbers (they didn’t have any bad or mouldy smell, so imagine my surprise to taste mould… I never tried again, but maybe it’s possible).

  9. Susan

    We used to do this to make ‘hot’ pickled veggies – use half pickle juice, and half juice from pickled jalapenos. Then add peeled, cooked whole new potatoes (we usually used canned), hardboiled eggs, and veggies like carrots and cauliflower, and cloves of whole garlic. This will actually last in the fridge for a couple of months.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi Susan, it sounds like a delicious pickled mix! Until now I have kept my “secondary” pickles only for a week, this is why I wrote to consume them during the week. I can speak only from my experience (moreover, my previous pickles often contain some oil too, so it’s not only vinegar, sugar and water mixture). I will try to keep them longer and update the post in the future.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Nipponnin. It reminds me a lot of Japanese pickles: so quick and easy and the result is very delicate. I hope you will like this way to use the brine twice.

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