When you open a jar of olives, whether green or black, you’ll notice the olives are packed in a briny liquid. This olive juice, also called olive brine, is packed with flavor from the olives. Rather than pouring it down the drain, olive brine can be used to add a tasty punch to many dishes. Read on to learn about the possibilities!
What is Olive Brine?
Olive brine is the liquid that olives are cured and stored in inside the jar. It’s made by combining water with salt, vinegar, and sometimes olive oil. The exact ingredients and proportions vary between recipes, but generally olive brine has a salty, tangy flavor.
As the olives soak in the brine, they impart their flavor to the surrounding liquid. So olive brine tastes like a concentrated version of the olives themselves. The brininess comes from the salt, while the sharp, pungent notes are from the olives and vinegar.
Olive brine is rich in vitamins and minerals that infuse into the liquid from the olives:
|Per 1 cup brine
As you can see, olive brine contains a substantial amount of sodium from the salt used to pack the olives. It also provides calcium, iron, and potassium.
So while olive brine is high in salt, it does deliver some beneficial minerals. But it should be used in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet.
Uses for Olive Brine
There are many creative ways to use up that flavorful olive brine rather than dumping it down the drain. Here are some potential uses:
Marinating and Brining Meats
Olive brine has a tenderizing effect on meats, similar to other salty brines. You can soak chicken, beef, pork, or fish fillets in a mixture of olive brine and water before cooking. This helps season the meat and make it juicier.
For example, chicken or pork chops marinated in diluted olive brine become infused with Mediterranean flavor. Brine-cured salmon fillets also take on an appealing brininess.
Adding Flavor to Vegetables
Drizzle olive brine over any vegetables before roasting or grilling to add instant flavor. The brine nicely complements vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and asparagus.
You can also dress fresh greens with a vinaigrette made with olive brine for an easy side salad. The olive notes pair well with bitter greens like arugula, radicchio, and endive.
Making Quick Pickles
Use olive brine for pickling vegetables with a Mediterranean twist. It provides the salty, acidic base that vegetables need to pickle.
Some ideas for quick refrigerator pickles include cucumbers, carrots, radishes, peppers, green beans, and onions. Just simmer the cleaned vegetables briefly in equal parts olive brine and water. Then pack the vegetables and liquid in jars and refrigerate.
Boosting the Flavors of Beans, Grains, and Potatoes
Add a splash of olive brine to dressings and sauces served with starch-based side dishes. It can amplify the flavors of rice, quinoa, pasta, potatoes, chickpeas, and bean salads.
For example, toss white beans with olive oil, lemon juice, and a bit of brine. Or drizzle some brine on roasted potatoes along with fresh herbs.
Making Salad Dressings and Vinaigrettes
Olive brine is a key ingredient in salad dressings to provide salty, pungent notes. Whisk it into homemade vinaigrettes, or shake it up in Mason jar dressings.
When making vinaigrettes, replace 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar with olive brine for added complexity. For creamy dressings, substitute some of the lemon juice or vinegar with brine.
Bringing Out Flavors in Dips and Spreads
Stir a tablespoon or two of olive brine into hummus, baba ganoush, tapenades, and similar Mediterranean dips and spreads. This enhances the flavors to make your dips really shine.
You can also mix some brine into herbed cheeses like feta or goat cheese to spread on crackers or crusty bread.
Making Unique Cocktails
Olive brine adds a savory, salty element when used to make craft cocktails. Try substituting a teaspoon or two of brine for other salty ingredients like olive juice or pickle brine in drink recipes.
Some examples include martinis, bloody marys, margaritas, and micheladas, or even just some sparkling water with a splash of brine.
Home Curing Olives
Leftover olive brine can be reused to cure new batches of olives at home. Simply submerge raw olives in the brine and let them soak for several weeks to absorb the flavors. Top off with additional water as needed.
The brine may need a higher salt content for curing than it has straight from the jar, so taste and adjust the seasonings. This lets you put that olive juice to work again.
Tips for Cooking with Olive Brine
Olive brine is potent, so a little goes a long way. Here are some tips for incorporating it successfully into recipes:
– Start with small amounts like 1-2 tablespoons at first, adding more to taste.
– Mix the brine with water, oil, or other liquids to tame the intensity if needed.
– For pickling, use a 1:1 ratio of brine to water as the base liquid before adding seasonings.
– When brining meats, limit the brine strength to 20-30% olive brine and the rest water.
– Acidic ingredients like lemon juice and vinegar help balance the saltiness, so add them to brine-based dressings.
– Rinse foods after brining or pickling if the olive flavors are too intense.
– Add brine near the end of cooking rather than simmering to retain the aromatic qualities.
With some trial and error, you’ll find the right olive brine amounts to enhance all kinds of savory dishes.
Olive brine is a flavorful liquid that can do more than just sit in the jar. With its concentrated olive essences and salty tang, olive brine makes an excellent addition to marinades, dressings, pickles, and other recipes. It’s a great way to impart instant Mediterranean flavor.
Get creative with the unused olive juice in your pantry. Try it in place of salt or vinegar in home cooking and cocktail recipes. Your dishes will benefit from the robust, olive-infused taste. With some care not to overdo the saltiness, olive brine is a simple item to transform the flavors of many foods and drinks.