One of my favorite parts of a high-quality artisanal sandwich or burger is the pickle. When you are eating something fatty or meaty, having a crisp juicy pickle to punch through that richness and deliver some zingy high notes of flavor elevates the meal.
My personal preference is for spicy pickles – the spicier the better. The pickles you buy in the grocery store are typically not nearly spicy enough for me, so I prefer to make my own pickle juice recipe. This results in both spicy pickles and spicy pickle juice!
While we’re going to be using some very special and very hot peppers, we highly recommend you follow our pepper guide to pick the ones that make the most sense for your palette.
What is a Spicy Pickle Juice?
When it comes to pickles, the brine is what gives the pickles its flavor characteristics. A spicy pickle juice recipe will yield spicy pickles whether those be from cucumbers, peppers, carrots, garlic, or whatever you want to pickle.
Our Approach to Spicy Pickle Juice
We’re going to be following the 50/50 rule when it comes to water and vinegar. This helps us ensure the pH of our solution is low enough to keep the bad microorganisms out of our food. Don’t worry, you are not in chemistry class! If you go a little bit over, you will still be safe. When possible, err on the side of more vinegar than water.
In my personal batch of spicy pickle juice, I will be using a combination of 1 dried carolina reaper pepper and 1 dried ghost pepper, seeds and all.
Spice level warning: I do not recommend you try these peppers unless you are very familiar with eating them consistently. Most people will not even have access to these peppers, meaning you have no chance to develop tolerances to this level of spice. There is basically no equivalent level of cayenne peppers you could eat that would give you tolerance for a reaper.
The Challenge with Pickle Juice
The main challenge with pickle juice, and pickling in general, is food safety. To keep bacteria like botulism from developing, you need a pH level before 4.6 (which you may remember from high school chemistry is acidic).
Additionally, you will want to limit air exposure of your brine. Unlikely commercial pickle products, I do not recommend you keep fresh pickles for more than a week.
You’ll notice that in this pickle juice recipe, we are crushing our garlic before putting it in. This is specifically so we can help flavor the brine more. Some other very common ingredients in brine are dill, coriander, and clove.
When it comes to the actual food you are pickling, you can pickle much more than cucumbers. Sliced bell peppers or jalapenos are very good pickled. Carrots also balance out well between their inherently sweet flavor and the salty sour brine.
All you will need to make this spicy pickle juice recipe is a mason jar and some measuring cups. To make the actual pickles you’ll want a chef’s knife and a cutting board as well.
- Standard size mason jar works very well for 4-6 persian cucumbers and 2-3 cups of brine
- ½ cup measuring cup
- Chef’s knife
- Cutting board
- 4 persian cucumbers
- 1/2 onion
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
- 1.5 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1.5 cup water
- Any chilis you want to add based on preference
- Wash vegetables
- Crush garlic
- Cut onions into slices about ¼ to ½ inch wide
- Cut off the ends of cucumbers
- Cut cucumbers into medallions ¼ to ½ inch wide
- Place the garlic, onion, and cucumber into mason jar
- Add salt, pepper, and chilis
- Add apple cider vinegar and water till everything is submerged
- Place the lid on and shake vigorously
- Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours