Food fads, like fad diets, come and go. Seasonally, month-to-month, by region, per pop culture or by evil corporate design: avocado toast, cold brew coffee, kale chips, everything bagel seasoning, sun-dried tomatoes, fast-casual dining, cupcakes! I haven’t been out of town for a few months, so I cannot say with any authority what is happening on the rest of the planet, but in the tiny corner that I inhabit it looks as if pickle juice has taken over the food world. Just a few minutes ago I was idly wandering through the Facebook minefield, as one does when procrastinating, and I found this link in Bon Appétit via Vivian Howard: https://www.bonappetit.com/story/pickle-juice-ice-pops? That’s it. The summer of pickle juice has jumped the shark.
I used to snap photos of bizarrely flavored potato chips to send to my college- aged son, since we largely communicated about food the way we used to chatter about Harry Potter. He is living in a big city now, and has developed new layers of civilization and couth. I doubt if the pickle juice phenom has entered his ivory tower. But pickle juice is ubiquitous. It might not seem bizarre any more, merely mainstream. Have you ever been stopped in your tracks by the sight of a bag of Lay’s potato chips?
I visited the Lay’s potato chip site, and the marketing mavens there have answered my unspoken question: “LAY’S® has potato chips for any occasion”. I mainly think of potato chips as a lunchtime, salty, crunchy treat. What better accompaniment to a sad, lonely tuna sandwich than a little bowl of chips? And at cocktail hour, potato chips and perhaps a piquant dip are divine. How many other occasions are there, that we need flavor-specific chips?
What is the perfect occasion for Flamin’ Hot Flavor? Lay also have Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice Flavored Chips, and Limon Flavored, as well as Chile Limon Flavored. (I fully embrace Sour Cream and Onion chips, having consumed several dozen bags during my college years, but Utz was always my fave.) And, of course Lay has two varieties of pickle: Dill Pickle and Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle. Which should I serve for cocktail hour? Which is more correct – one wouldn’t want to appear gauche or unsophisticated. But why stop at potato chips?
Pickle juice is the newest flavor for so many taste treats that we must have been taking for granted all these years. Consider dill pickle peanuts. Dill pickle soda. How have we lived without Archie McPhee’s dill pickle mints? Did you know there are pickle-flavored sprinkles, that you can scatter on bowls of ice cream? Trader Joe’s has pickle-flavored popcorn seasoning. There is even pickle-flavored vodka – better for cocktail hour, less so for lunchtime.
We did some research here in the Spy Test Kitchens. Yes, we took the easy way and bought some potato chips – just Dill Flavored, not Flamin’ Hot. And if I ever get to Trader Joe’s again I plan to pick up a jar of dill pickle seasoning salt for popcorn. We have actually cooked some chicken that had been brined in dill pickle juice. We always have multiple jars of pickles in the fridge. A jar of Vlasic, one jar from Aldi, and a hotter variety by Wickles (https://wicklespickles.com) Yummm. Thank you Food52: https://food52.com/recipes/77484-pickled-chicken
The chicken was tasty. I don’t know if the novelty of its extra tang warrants permanent inclusion in our chicken dinner rotation, though. It reminded me of Chick-Fil-A, without the waffle fries. Better to have chicken at home.
Here are some other ways that you can use the taste of summer: https://www.seriouseats.com/a-gazillion-ways-to-use-leftover-pickle-juice
I found this mother-daughter Tik Tok pair a delight: https://www.tiktok.com/@floridamomof3/video/7125388826205375786?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1
You can reenact scenes from The Bear, and make your own Italian beef sandwiches: https://www.readyseteat.com/recipes-Spicy-Italian-Beef-Sandwiches-10164
Maybe it is the heat, maybe it is the residual effects of post-COVID. Pickle juice is all around. Plunge in.
“But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which never maybe was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.”