by Yvonne Quincey-de Guzman
One sunny weekend afternoon while visiting friends in Melbourne, I was offered a micro-brew and homemade liverwurst on rye. How could I resist? My eyes widened and salivary glands started pumping. Gorgeous, glistening, green slices of deliciousness adorned the open-faced sandwiches, pickling spices tickled my nose. Growing up in Southern California and living a good portion of my life in the San Fernando Valley, West Coast deli capital of America, combined with my father’s Brooklyn, New York heritage, I can sniff out a good deli pickle from a mile away, no matter what country I am visiting. I instinctively knew they were going to be excellent pickles, even before I tasted their greatness.
Little did I know, these pickles would change my life. I took a bite and my childhood flashed before my eyes. Epigenetics kicked in and this ancient pickle affinity seemed to be in my DNA, as natural as blood coursing through my veins. My friend explained to me that these were the pickles in her husband’s new Lewis and Son range. I jokingly said that if I ever quit my day job, I would sell those pickles. Three years later, I am selling those pickles, and have been for over a year now.
I loved those pickles then because they reminded me of the most precious memories from my youth and reinforced the magic of food, family traditions and recipes passed down through generations. I love these pickles now because they have been shown to be part of a healthy diet and are giving us a new twist on food, drink and culinary inventiveness. We are mixing the science and medicine of food with the creativity of this generation’s artisan foodies and mixologists. As we dive more and more into the advantages of fermented foods, pickle juice has popped up with some surprise benefits and uses.
Here are 10 reasons to give that pickle juice in the jar a second look.
- ANTIOXIDANTS Pickle juice contains two key antioxidants, vitamins C and E, shielding your body from free radicals. We are exposed to these damaging molecules every day. Having plenty of antioxidants in our diets helps our bodies eradicate those harmful agents. Vitamins C and E boost your immune system’s function, amongst other roles they play in nourishing the body.
- BOOST YOUR GUT HEALTH Fermented foods, including pickle juice, have been shown to encourage the growth and healthy balance of good bacteria and flora in your gut. In an article featured in the Huffington Post’s 21 February 2017 edition, gut health may be the key to preventing Alzheimer’s. In a John Hopkins School of Medicine article titled, The Brain Gut Connection, “Anxiety and depression have been thought to contribute to gastro conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).” It goes on to say “the brain is your gut” and there are many other health conditions related to gut health from allergies to type 2 diabetes. It would just make sense to want our guts healthy. Ferments, together with their juices, have been shown repeatedly in many studies, to support gut health and increase our body’s ability to absorb good nutrients. By consuming ferments and improving gut health, the bio-availability of other foods increases too. There is no point spending good money on top quality food if our bodies cannot absorb those healthy nutrients due to poor gut health. The John Hopkins article also commented that people who start eating a diet high in raw fermented foods reverse the course of cancer, stop diabetes in its tracks, and notice an increased level of heart fitness. If pickle juice could talk it would say, “How do you like me now!”
- HELPS CONTROL BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS The lactic and acetic acids in fermented foods, including pickle juice, block carbohydrates from entering the blood and turning into blood sugar, reducing spikes. These benefits can carry over to the next meal, but that’s not all. Every culture has a long tradition of fermented and raw foods. These foods provide for healthy intestinal flora and decrease the load on your pancreas and liver. There is something to be found in those universal truisms. When nearly every culture throughout recorded time has had some form of fermented food as part of their diet, it is something to be seriously considered.
- SOOTHES MUSCLE CRAMPS Some athletes have known about the secret health benefits of pickle juice for decades. Dehydrated men experienced faster relief from muscle cramps after drinking pickle juice, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. About 1/3 cup of pickle juice is all it took to have this effect. Pickle juice relieved cramps more than drinking the same amount of water. It also helped more than drinking nothing at all.
- STAY HYDRATED When exercising hard, more than an hour, or in hot climates, water may simply not be enough. Drinking something with sodium and potassium can help you get hydrated faster. Sodium is an electrolyte that you lose when you sweat. Potassium is another electrolyte depleted in sweat. Did you know that you can recover from your workout more quickly by taking a sip of some pickle juice? High in sodium and rich in potassium, pickle juice can help your body return to its normal electrolyte levels more expediently and effectively than water alone. Watching your sodium intake or on a low-sodium diet? Be sure to check with your doctor and dietitian about pickle juice before drinking it.
- SUGAR FREE RECOVERY AID Sugary sports drinks are high in calories, artificial colours and preservatives. And if you’re trying to lose weight, you’re probably not too psyched about consuming high-calorie sports drinks. Pickle juice to the rescue! Pickle juice contains no fat, but it can have some calories. It can have anywhere from zero to 100 calories per 1-cup serving. The number of calories depends on what’s in the pickling solution. We aren’t saying ditch the water, but when you need a quick boost, sugar is not the answer, try so pickle juice instead.
- GARLIC IS GOOD Lewis and Son’s Traditional Pickled Cucumbers contain garlic as a main ingredient in our pickling spices. The Sulphur-containing compound, Allicin, found in fresh, crushed or chewed garlic has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and some startling claims mention that it may help prevent some forms of cancer too. Garlic is also enriched with Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6, folate, Vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc.
- SWEETENS YOUR BREATH You thought the garlic was going to keep both vampires and people away? That is half right. It is the bacteria in your mouth that causes the bad breath. The potent antibacterial qualities of pickle juice neutralize those nasty bacteria and freshens breath, while maintaining its effectiveness with the undead.
- BOOST METABOLISM Garlic, pepper, cloves and allspice, have all been known to boost metabolism and support the immune system. Drinking a small amount of pickle juice can help get the blood flowing, and some have even claimed weight loss benefits.
- COST EFFECTIVE If you already eat pickles, you have a win-win! Save money on sports drinks, drink mixers, salad dressings and dips by utilizing your refrigerator gold. There are companies out there selling just pickle juice, without the pickles. I know right!
I was in the States last month visiting friends and family in California. Whiskey Pickle-Backs were all the rage at many of the establishments we frequented. A healthy and scrumptious drink mix you say? Yes, I do! Try a Bloody Mary made with pickle juice next time you are having a fun Sunday brunch. Per tastingtable.com, it’s the sugar in drinks that is partially to blame for giving you a hangover together with dehydration. Mitigate tomorrow’s headache naturally. The salt and water in pickle juice assists in fighting dehydration. Dehydration from alcohol consumption contributes to the hangover experience. So, skip the sugar and dehydration, at Lewis & Son, we are fundamentally against hangovers and for feeling groovy. Have an excellent time the Lewis & Son way with a few new cocktail ideas using pickle juice.
Here are 7 Pickle Juice Based Cocktails to try:
The New Pickleback- The standard traditional pickle-whiskey combo works fine, but since you can pickle anything, you might as well utilize the juice from your alternative creations, too. Try a shot of your favorite spirit followed by the brine from pickled watermelon rind (watermelon rind left in Lewis and Son Pickle juice over night or longer) or a little Lewis and Son Preserved Lemon juice and some fizzy water, or both if you like. Leave a little bit of the luscious red watermelon flesh on the rind, it gives a slightly sweet undertone to the freshness of the rind and the saltiness of the pickle juice (and it makes the drink a pretty colour).
Pickle Infused Vodka- Combine decent vodka and pickle juice in a 3 to 1 ratio. Throw in a pickle slice or two and pinch of fresh herbs, like dill, basil, rosemary, or crushed red peppers, if you are so inclined. Choose one herb here, as to avoid overpowering the concoction. Think subtlety here and err on the side of being conservative. More is not better. These small additions will add beauty and flavour to an already divine brew. Let it sit in a dark place for a few days and serve it over ice. If you are feeling swanky, drink it from a chilled martini glass with a slice of pickle and a single slice of Lewis & Son Pickled Red Onion. Go on get the slice of garlic out of the bottom of the pickle jar too. It is fun to experiment with garnishes and different combinations. I do like a good fancy drink. It is a feast for the eyes not just the tongue.
Fisherman’s Folly- Fish sauce and pickle juice make this funky cocktail a far cry from the fruity drinks you’re used to. The matcha powder gives it a slight creaminess, and grapefruit juice adds a citrus tang that works well with the sake-and-gin base. See our Recipe Section on the Lewis & Son website for instructions on making this drink. (insert link here)
Spicy Bloody Mary- This cocktail is just asking for it. Spicy pickle juice is the yin to the yang of the sweet tomato base. Funk it up with a curl of carrot and a stalk of celery. Though the best garnish for this drink, in my opinion, is a couple of Lewis & Son Dilly Beans. With all the health benefits of pickle juice, it is practically a salad in a glass. This is the time to go a little crazy with the garnish, if you were looking for that opportunity. At brunch in San Francisco a few years ago, I was served a Bloody Mary with a 20 cm tall garnish towering over the glass, complete with striped, extra-long bendy straw. Want to impress? Toss a steamed prawn or two on the garnish skewer with a slice of lemon or lime and call it a Seafood Bloody Mary. I would like to order mine with a dab or horseradish please. I like it extra spicy.
Charred Spring Onion Gibson— Place cleaned and charred (on BBQ or stovetop) spring onions in pickle juice overnight. Take 2 ounces of gin and 1 ounce of dry vermouth and pour over ice. Mix for 30 seconds and strain into a glass. Drop a charred, and now pickled, spring onion into the glass. Bonus Tip: Toss any extra pickle liquid into salad dressings or dips.
Pickle Martini— A dirty martini with pickle or pickle slices instead of olives.
Pickled Tequila Shots— Instead of salt, tequila and a wedge of lemon, try a sip of pickle juice, tequila and a slice of lemon or lime. If you want it muy caliente, stick a whole dried chili or a fresh jalapeño in your reserve pickle juice. The longer you leave it in, the hotter it will be.
Pickles have been around for centuries, the Lewis Family has been making fine food for decades. Join the next generation of pickle enthusiasts and try some new healthy ways (and not so healthy, depending on how many cocktails you have) to enjoy pickles and their precious juice. Lewis & Son Pickles and other products can be found on our website, in our webstore and in your local wholefoods and independent grocers. Check out our Facebook page and Instagram.
Send us your favourite pickle and/or pickle juice recipe together with a high resolution (or best you can) photo or two and we will send you a jar of Lewis & Son Pickles. Please send all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions become the property of Lewis & Son and may be used for promotional and marketing purposes by Lewis & Son. We look forward to seeing your marvellous creations!