February 11, 2014
Aside from the people buying billions of bottles of water for convenience, huge numbers of people don’t trust their sources of drinking water. They either buy filters for their faucets and fridge dispensers, or buy filtered water from the store. Even if you don’t think you buy your water, what about the electricity to pump it out of the well? Or, depending on where you live, there could be a charge per gallon on your water and sewer bill? So to me, throwing out perfectly good liquid and paying (one way or another) for more water to cook with looks like a waste.
Whenever I cook pasta or beans I save the “broth” for making another batch, or for soup stock. But there’s another liquid I used to throw down the drain, simply for lack of a better idea. That is, until now.
My family goes through a LOT of dill pickles. Pickles on lentil burgers. Pickles on tofu sub sandwiches. Pickles on peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. I even like pickles in tossed salads. So I was thinking about all the pickle juice I’ve thrown out over time.
Pickle juice is mostly salty watery vinegar (with some garlic and or herbs, and if it’s from sweet pickles it would contain some sugar). All breads include water or some kind of liquid in the ingredients. Bread also tastes best made with some salt, which I read somewhere is chemically important in the rising process. Sugar (or honey) is also good for softening the flavor of whole wheat flour, and for making yeast grow. (As a side note, adding a sugar crystal to a droplet of water containing yeast particles has so far been the most interesting thing my son and I found to watch under his microscope.) Biscuits and soda breads benefit from some vinegar mixed into the liquid ingredients, as it reacts with the soda to add puffiness. I even use vinegar in my pancake batter to help them rise. So, it almost sounds like pickle juice was made for making breads, doesn’t it?
This week I finally tried using a whole quart of dill pickle juice in making regular yeast-raised whole wheat dough for four loaves of bread. Also, instead of sugar, I added the syrup from a can of peaches, and I threw in the liquid from a can of black olives. When the bread came out of the oven, everyone devoured a loaf as usual, spread with butter and honey. My son agreed that this batch of yeast bread came out very well. No one could guess from the great flavor of the bread that I had done anything odd. It certainly did not taste like pickle bread.
I’ll admit that since I only had one quart of pickle juice on hand, I had to increase the volume of liquid by adding water. (Don’t ask how much–I rarely measure when cooking.) But the important fact here is that a whole cup of pickle juice per loaf of bread did not at all harm the bread’s flavor.
Vinegar is believed to have health benefits, so the juice probably improved the nutrition of our bread—even though store-bought pickles are obviously made with white vinegar. Some sources say apple cider vinegar is recommended for the most health effects, which makes sense because it still contains more of the original food material not present in distilled (white) vinegar. But other sources explain the health value of the acid content of white vinegar. Apparently, any vinegar is good for you, even though some kinds may be even better. So, if you make your own pickles using apple cider vinegar, and then put that juice in your bread, you might reap even more benefits than I did.
Here are two handy articles about the nutritional values of vinegar. Normally I don’t like the quality of eHow articles, but it really depends on the particular article’s author, and I’ve read similar information as this in numerous other places including books.
Even WebMD can’t argue that there clearly seem to be benefits to consuming vinegar:
There are multiple books on the market dedicated to the health benefits of vinegar, which include helping with such things as cholesterol, diabetes, weight-loss, allergies, skin care, and more.
Whether or not you believe the findings on vinegar’s benefits, the absolute least that I did was conserve money and water, by reusing three liquids which were already processed for human consumption and which otherwise would have gone down the drain.
Do you have other uses for pickle juice? Have you tried cleaning with it, giving your mirrors and counters that “fresh pickle scent”? How about using it in place of vinegar in that old method of clearing sink drains? I have yet to try these uses myself, but I’m thinking about it—if I have any left after bread-baking 🙂