Folks often mistake my beautiful bottles of brine—or the liquid extract that forms as vegetables ferment—for kombucha. That’s okay. Kombucha is almost as delicious and has some of the health benefits of brine, but when it comes to live-cultured drinks, brine stands head and shoulders above others.
Once people at the farmers’ market move past their surprise at what that beautiful liquid in the bottle is, they sometimes move along, but more often are curious.
Fair enough. This little post throws out a handful of ideas. Surely, the sky’s the limit. Here are my favorite ways to enjoy the wonderful flavor and health benefits of kimchi, sauerkraut and pickle brine.
A sensitive note about cooking brine:
Get over it! My husband was appalled yesterday when I suggested he use brine as the liquid for heating up leftover rice:
H: I’ll kill all the good stuff.
B: Ah! So you have been paying attention… You are mostly right. Heat will damage some, maybe most of the probiotics in brine, but you eat enough sauerkraut to feed most of Moretown. I don’t think you have to worry about losing a few from those 3 tablespoons of brine.
B: Just add a splash after you are done heating everything, and you’ll be great.
So, like H, if you are a fermentation fanatic to the point you are loving brine (and clearly a genius as well), put down your glass of kefir and don’t sweat the probiotic loss from heating brine. Remember, you’ve still got loads of prebiotics in there and I bet this isn’t the only live-cultured part of you menu today.
They appear in no particular order. These are not recipes and are suggestions. Give them a whirl and see what else you come up with. I can't wait to hear your ideas.
1. Drink it, George. If you are my age, you'll remember when former President George H. W. Bush got harrassed for admitting that he doesn't like broccoli. The broccoli loving world was deeply offended and printed these awesome broccoli stickers with, "Eat It, George!" written across them. Ditto with brine. Just drink it! If you are lucky, you'll even get a cute little VFA shot glass from me as a reminder. Take a shot in the morning, or if you are coming down with something, or if you are sweaty, or dilute it in your hydration pack, etc. Just drink it. You'll be glad you did.
2. Use as a liquid for warming up starches (or anything else). Does that leftover rice need a little liquid while it is warming to be delicious? How about that spaghetti n meatballs calling to you from the tupperware? Whether you are using a microwave (I know! Not cool, but we've got one and I probably use it every day...) or re-warming food in a pot, a splash of brine will add some flava and help prevent it from sticking. Your leftovers will bloom anew with the moisture and flavors added by the brine.
3. Salad dressing #1. This from VFA long time supporter Caitlyn in Plainfield—pickle brine (spicy pickle brine is her preference)+tahini, shake and serve. It is a salad dressing, but Caitlyn swears by it as a veggie dip too. Her obviously brilliant and discerning daughter loves it, too.
4. Salad dressing #2. Here's a no brainer (or no briner, Hahaha!). Fresh veggie salad, drizzle olive oil, toss with salt n peppa, drizzle with brine, toss, taste, adjust. Yum! I've tried this easy peasy lemon squeezy brine approach on many types of "salads." Absolute favorite—leftover brown rice (warm not hot), can of sardines in olive oil (that makes it easy), chunked avocado (I know! Before long we avocado eaters are going to have passersby spray painting us as if we were wearing real fur!), chunked tomatoes, salt n peppa, chia seeds and kimchi brine. Toss and eat your heart out!
5. Make a soup. Add brine to soup recipes in place of some of the water or broth. My fave is to saute some stew meat with onions and root veggie chunks, pour in a can of coconut milk, add kimchi brine and cook everything til tender. Yum! Add some noodles or rice if you want. Totally awesome either way.
6. Braise it, bitches. Got a roast or perhaps that older hen or rooster who went on to the chicken coop in the sky when they were past their roostering and laying prime? No more tough meat! Grab your slow cooker, maybe some onions, garlic, celery, carrots and/or tomatoes, douse the whole situation with brine and ooo-weee! Your house will smell great, and when that wonderfully stewed masterpiece is done.... Yum.
7. Soak it up. We don't eat a ton of grains and beans around here, but when we do, we always soak them for at least a day before cooking them. This helps them to sprout a little, breaking down the phytic acid, allowing them to be more nourishing and easier to digest. If you are in the same camp—and here is where you can wonder why you aren't—add a little brine to the soaking water and give it a probiotic, super digestive boost. Hint: are you soaking something like rolled, steel cut or whole oats? If so, add a little plain kombucha or live cultured apple cider vinegar instead. That way, if any flavor peeks through (it usually doesn't) your soaking enhancer will add a compatible flavor to your morning porridge.
8. Cocktails, anyone. Ok. This is totally not my area as I drink very little alcohol. But, Elaine, an enthusiastic supporter from Warren, swears by the kimchi brine mixed with tequila. And is it good for you? Probably not. And always drink responsibly and never drink and drive. That means you.
9. Mocktails too. Firecracker or kimchi, garlicky pickle, spicy pickle, cauliflower sunshine or mighty fine sunshine brine plus tomato juice, worcestershire sauce and a celery stick makes a nice alcohol-free Bloody Mary-ish.
10. Critter Care. Do you make your own dog food or ferment food for your chickens. We do! If we've got surplus brine hanging around the Fermentery, our beloved animal and bird friends will get some in their chow too. New to fermenting chicken food? Use brine in your first batch to get it off on the right fermenting foot. Your chickens will be vibrant and their eggs or meat even more delicious.