Why You Shouldn’t Toss the Liquid in Canned Olives & Artichokes

published May 6, 2015
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(Image credit: Jessica Goldman Foung)

Pickles come in jars filled with briny liquid. After the last dill gets eaten, that liquid usually gets tossed, and the can or jar gets recycled. But, lo and behold, someone genius once saved that leftover briny pickle liquid and used it to make (gasp) more pickles, as well as cocktails, salad dressings, and even pickle-flavored bread.

That’s the story of pickle juice. But sadly, the hardworking liquid found in other sundries — like olives, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and chiles en adobo— still gets discarded. This is a huge mistake.

(Image credit: Jessica Goldman Foung)

Much like expensive bottles of infused oils, vinegars, and sauces, those leftovers are full of intense flavor. Flavor you’ve paid for. Flavor that will add depth to your favorite snacks and meals. So let’s skip the trash can and proceed.

How to Use Leftover Liquids

If you’re not sure where to begin, start with the label. Most of these products contain the main ingredient (i.e., the olives, tomatoes, artichokes) and a combination of oil, vinegar, salt, and perhaps dried herbs. Pretty basic stuff.

Which — because of the simplicity — can be used much as you would plain oil or vinegar when cooking a recipe or finishing it.

Chiles en adobo, however, are a bit different, as they contain hot chipotle peppers in a slightly sweet, smoky sauce. But just like the other products, you can use this sauce as you would any other sauce with a similar taste (think: BBQ-esque).

As for how to add the liquid to existing dishes, this is where things gets fun. First, think of how the ingredient usually gets used. For example, olives tend to show up in Mediterranean dishes, so stick to that same flavor profile and start by adding a drizzle of the olive brine to hummus, an orzo salad, or a bowl of tangy yogurt.

If you’re still feeling timid, taste the leftover liquid first by pairing with plain ingredients, like adding a splash to a bowl of rice or sautéed veggies. Or of course, the infallable Bloody Mary. Then expand your leftover liquid horizons and sense of adventure with the suggestions below. And when the expiration date on that jar or can nears, simply freeze what is left in ice cube trays for a future flavor boost.

(Image credit: Jessica Goldman Foung)

More Ways to Use Brine & Sauce from Canned Goods

Try using one (or a few) tablespoons of adobo sauce in:

Add a little drizzle of olive juice to your next batch of:

Note: Just watch and be aware of the salt and sodium level of the brine.

Mix some artichoke heart essence into your next batch of:

Add a hint of sun-dried tomato flavor to: