Pickle & Preserve

Love Pickles? Then Save the Brine, and Use It in This Chilled Summer Soup

July  4, 2017

This is part of an ongoing series to celebrate bodegas (and their owners) in New York City. Each week, we're highlighting recipes from food writers and chefs made entirely from ingredients purchased in bodegas. Today: Food writer, recipe tester, and Georgian food enthusiast Marisa Robertson-Textor on the cold Russian soup with a secret ingredient—one you will be using in a lot of your soups.

It was a cold winter night when I first started hoarding pickle brine. The carrot soup I was making just wouldn’t come together, and so I wildly added a few spoonfuls of brine to the pot. (How bad could it be?) The alchemy was instant—the flavors just dropped into alignment—and I’ve never looked back. These days, my fridge usually contains at least two jars of leftover brine, which makes its way into everything from chicken salad to mashed potatoes. And when I’ve hoarded long enough, I use my supply as a base for okroshka, a tart, refreshing Russian summer soup.

If there’s a Russian bodega in your neighborhood, lucky you! You’ll have access to delectable imported кефир (kefir) and сметана (sour cream), as well as house-made pickles straight from the barrel. That’s the version to serve at a dinner party, along with a loaf of dark, aromatic Borodinsky bread and hot-smoked salmon. But for a regular weeknight, head to your local bodega and pick up any brand of sour cream (as long as it’s full-fat, of course). For your half-sours—or, as the Russians call them, your “lightly salteds.” You want a pickle with plenty of snap. I recommend Ba-Tampte.

Start hoarding your brine now, then pop out to your local bodega for the remaining ingredients as soon as the weather approaches 90˚ F. (And if at all possible, buy your hard-boiled eggs at the bodega too. Because it’s just fun to do that.)

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Mitschlag is a food and travel writer based in Brooklyn.