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12 Uses for Pickle Juice

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If you love pickleswhether sweet, dill, garlic, or bread-and-butteryou should be using that delicious leftover pickle juice for other things once they're gone. Here are a few suggestions.

1. SALAD AND OTHER DRESSINGS

Any recipe for homemade salad dressing that calls for vinegar can be made extra tasty by substituting pickle juice. In fact, you can substitute pickle juice for most recipes that call for vinegar, like gazpacho, or add extra pickle juice along with your pickle relish in potato salad, macaroni salad, tuna salad, or deviled eggs.  

2. PICKLED VEGETABLES

Once the pickles are gone, take that jar and fill it with other fresh vegetables: carrots, peppers, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, or onions. Place the jar back in the refrigerator, and in a day or two you will have tasty pickled raw vegetables. In large pieces, they make great snacks. In small pieces, the resulting homemade relish can liven up salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, or tacos. The pickling process also works with hard boiled eggs, if you can squeeze them into the jar.

3. MARINADE

bitslammer via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Soaking meats in pickle juice before cooking will tenderize the outside (which, due to complex interactions, gives the impression of more tender meat) and add flavor. It works for chicken, pork, or beef. Depending on your taste, you may want to use it full-strength or diluted with water or milk. You can also marinate vegetables in pickle juice before baking or grilling. Discard the marinade after one use.

4. FISH

Many people add lemon juice to fish while cooking or at the table, but you can substitute pickle juice for a new and different flavor. It'll add a vinegary zest to any kind of fish, although if the pickle juice is colored yellow, you should dilute it with water to avoid turning the meat yellow.

5. BREAD

Make your own tasty rye bread for sandwiches, using dill pickle juice for flavor. It's the key ingredient for a slightly tangy edge to a loaf that's ready to be slathered in mustard and piled high with pastrami, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut.

6. POPSICLES

amanda via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Frozen pickles on a stick are quite popular in some areas, particularly Texas. They even have snow cones topped with pickle juice! You get the same kick with frozen pickle juice on a stick, sometimes called a “pickle sickle.” You can make them at home with mashed pickles or with juice only.

7. PICKLE SOUP

This recipe for pickle soup uses both pickles and pickle juice on top of potatoes, carrots, and onions, as well as sour cream and extra dill. How could that combination be anything but delicious?  

8. COCKTAILS

Edson Hong via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you normally add lime, tomato juice, or clam juice to beer, a spoonful of pickle juice will only make that concoction tastier. A dash of pickle juice is also recommended to spice up a Bloody Mary, and there's always the Pickleback, which is a shot of whiskey chased by a shot of pickle juice. This is a popular method for “improving” cheap whiskey, although if you like it, you might even want to try it with tequila. Last but not least, be sure to try out the Pickletini, a martini made with pickle juice.

9. SPORTS DRINK

Pickle juice in water is also a popular substitute for sports drinks, because it contains plenty of sodium and electrolytes with less sugar than commercial sports drinks. There is some evidence that it can help with muscle cramps, too, and some baseball pitchers use it to ward off blisters.

10. ACIDIFYING SOIL

colleen via Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you have colored hydrangeas, they will tend to bloom blue if the pH of the soil is low, or acidic. You can aid this process by adding a splash of pickle juice to your watering can. But the blue only shows up if there is also aluminum in the soil, which may require the addition of aluminum sulphate. If you have more alkaline soil, they will bloom pink (add lime to help).

11. CLEANING COPPER

If your copper pots have tarnished, set the bottom of the pot in a pan of pickle juice for 15 minutes. The tarnish should come off easily thanks to the acidity.

12. FRUIT FLY TRAP

Some people use apple cider vinegar to easily trap the critters hanging around their gardens, but if you don't have any, pickle juice works in a pinch. Use a small container of pickle juice with a drop of liquid dishwashing detergent in it. The vinegary brine attracts the flies, and the soap makes it difficult for them to escape.

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Big Questions
Why Can't Dogs Eat Chocolate?
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Even if you don’t have a dog, you probably know that they can’t eat chocolate; it’s one of the most well-known toxic substances for canines (and felines, for that matter). But just what is it about chocolate that is so toxic to dogs? Why can't dogs eat chocolate when we eat it all the time without incident?

It comes down to theobromine, a chemical in chocolate that humans can metabolize easily, but dogs cannot. “They just can’t break it down as fast as humans and so therefore, when they consume it, it can cause illness,” Mike Topper, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, tells Mental Floss.

The toxic effects of this slow metabolization can range from a mild upset stomach to seizures, heart failure, and even death. If your dog does eat chocolate, they may get thirsty, have diarrhea, and become hyperactive and shaky. If things get really bad, that hyperactivity could turn into seizures, and they could develop an arrhythmia and have a heart attack.

While cats are even more sensitive to theobromine, they’re less likely to eat chocolate in the first place. They’re much more picky eaters, and some research has found that they can’t taste sweetness. Dogs, on the other hand, are much more likely to sit at your feet with those big, mournful eyes begging for a taste of whatever you're eating, including chocolate. (They've also been known to just swipe it off the counter when you’re not looking.)

If your dog gets a hold of your favorite candy bar, it’s best to get them to the vet within two hours. The theobromine is metabolized slowly, “therefore, if we can get it out of the stomach there will be less there to metabolize,” Topper says. Your vet might be able to induce vomiting and give your dog activated charcoal to block the absorption of the theobromine. Intravenous fluids can also help flush it out of your dog’s system before it becomes lethal.

The toxicity varies based on what kind of chocolate it is (milk chocolate has a lower dose of theobromine than dark chocolate, and baking chocolate has an especially concentrated dose), the size of your dog, and whether or not the dog has preexisting health problems, like kidney or heart issues. While any dog is going to get sick, a small, old, or unhealthy dog won't be able to handle the toxic effects as well as a large, young, healthy dog could. “A Great Dane who eats two Hershey’s kisses may not have the same [reaction] that a miniature Chihuahua that eats four Hershey’s kisses has,” Topper explains. The former might only get diarrhea, while the latter probably needs veterinary attention.

Even if you have a big dog, you shouldn’t just play it by ear, though. PetMD has a handy calculator to see just what risk levels your dog faces if he or she eats chocolate, based on the dog’s size and the amount eaten. But if your dog has already ingested chocolate, petMD shouldn’t be your go-to source. Call your vet's office, where they are already familiar with your dog’s size, age, and condition. They can give you the best advice on how toxic the dose might be and how urgent the situation is.

So if your dog eats chocolate, you’re better off paying a few hundred dollars at the vet to make your dog puke than waiting until it’s too late.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What is Duck Sauce?
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A plate of Chinese takeout with egg rolls and duck sauce
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We know that our favorite Chinese takeout is not really authentically Chinese, but more of an Americanized series of menu options very loosely derived from overseas inspiration. (Chinese citizens probably wouldn’t recognize chop suey or orange-glazed chicken, and fortune cookies are of Japanese origin.) It would also be unusual for "real" Chinese meals to be accompanied by a generous amount of sauce packets.

Here in the U.S., these condiments are a staple of Chinese takeout. But one in particular—“duck sauce”—doesn’t really offer a lot of information about itself. What exactly is it that we’re pouring over our egg rolls?

Smithsonian.com conducted a sauce-related investigation and made an interesting discovery, particularly if you’re not prone to sampling Chinese takeout when traveling cross-country. On the East Coast, duck sauce is similar to sweet-and-sour sauce, only fruitier; in New England, it’s brown, chunky, and served on tables; and on the West Coast, it’s almost unheard of.

While the name can describe different sauces, associating it with duck probably stems from the fact that the popular Chinese dish Peking duck is typically served with a soybean-based sauce. When dishes began to be imported to the States, the Americanization of the food involved creating a sweeter alternative using apricots that was dubbed duck sauce. (In New England, using applesauce and molasses was more common.)

But why isn’t it easily found on the West Coast? Many sauce companies are based in New York and were in operation after Chinese food had already gained a foothold in California. Attempts to expand didn’t go well, and so Chinese food aficionados will experience slightly different tastes depending on their geography. But regardless of where they are, or whether they're using the condiment as a dipping sauce for their egg rolls or a dressing for their duck, diners can rest assured that no ducks were harmed in the making of their duck sauce.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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