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How to reuse store-bought pickle brine to make more pickles

Addie Broyles

The results of our pickle experiment are in!

The contenders:

Salt-brined countertop pickles,from Tecolote Farm’s David Pitre (Right)

Salt-and-vinegar fridge pickles, from Kate Payne’s (Middle)

Fridge pickles made with reused Claussen pickle brine, from this month’s Cook’s Illustrated (Left)

You’ll remember from last week that I was using Tecolote’s baby cucumbers to experiment with the top two quick pickle techniques, but over the weekend, I saw a third approach in Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Their recipe: Toss about a pound of cucumber slices or spears with 1 to 2 tsp. salt. Let sit for an hour and then rinse. Bring leftover pickle brine to a boil. Place cucumbers into jar and pour hot brine on top. Seal the jar and refrigerate.

It’s no surprise that the reused Claussen pickles were my kids’ favorites. We often reuse pickle brine just by sticking sliced cucumbers straight into the leftover brine, but the Cook’s Illustrated method of salting the cucumbers and boiling the brine infused far more flavor. We’ll be making these again.

I really liked the salthy, earthy taste of the countertop fermented pickles from David Pitre at Tecolote, whose brine turned a little cloudly and bubbly in the process, but they were too strong for little palates.

The heavily spiced salt-and-vinegar fridge pickles picked up a lot of the floral notes from the juniper berries and bay leaves, but to my surprise, they were a little too vinegary for my taste. Maybe it was because I was comparing them side-by-side, but of the three pickles, this one was definitely the most tart.

In the future, I might use about half as much vinegar for my fridge pickles or a little less salt in the countertop fermented ones, but for our day-to-day quick pickles, I’ll use that Cook’s Illustrated technique.

Now, if only I could get such nice locally grown cucumbers year-round. Yes, I could pressure or water-bath can them to last all year, but quick pickles have such a nice crunch to them that I haven’t been able to replicate with shelf-stable preservation.