Just picked the last pickle out of the jar? Don't toss it out, save the liquid! The refrigerated juice from pickles, pickled peppers and sauerkraut has dozens of uses in everything from marinades and sauces to dips, soups and even drinks.

"Recycling" the juice also makes good economic sense. A good value to start with, pickled vegetables and their juices are an easy and relatively inexpensive way to pack extra flavor into foods. And with these ideas, you'll be eager to use every drop:

  • Pickle and pickled pepper liquids make excellent marinades. They offer lots of gutsy flavor when simply combined with a little olive oil and chopped fresh herbs, or added to bottled Italian salad dressing.
  • Sauerkraut juice is the basis for this zesty marinade for grilled pork and other meats. Combine 1 cup sauerkraut juice, 1/2 cup white grape juice, 1/4 cup oil and 1 clove chopped garlic with 1 tablespoon each of Dijon mustard, minced shallots, chopped fresh rosemary and chopped fresh thyme. Add black pepper to taste. The acid in the sauerkraut juice acts as a tenderizer, resulting in super-succulent meats.
  • Most any barbecue sauce is better when doctored with a little pickle, pickled pepper or sauerkraut juice. The new and improved version will have a delightful tanginess not found in any bottled brand.
  • Add cut-up raw carrots, celery sticks, broccoli and cauliflower florets, and red and green pepper strips directly to the jar of any type of leftover pickle juice. Make sure to keep these tangy tidbits refrigerated. The marinated veggies are great for snacking on straight from the jar or become an innovative addition to a crudité platter.
  • Slip sliced onions into a jar of sweet-hot bread and butter pickle juice. The "pickled" onions liven up turkey, chicken or ham sandwiches, as well as hamburgers.
  • Pickle liquid mixed in with the mayo can give a new twist to your time-honored potato salad. Or, try this Dilled Potato Salad: combine cooked red- skinned potatoes, cooked-till-crisp-tender green beans, sliced black olives and chopped dill pickle. Toss with a dressing of 1/3 cup oil, and 1 Tablespoon each of pickle liquid, country-style Dijon mustard, lemon juice and chopped fresh dill.
  • For a version of macaroni and cheese that's definitely not like Grandma's, blend 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup heated pickled pepper juice and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard; pour over 4 cups cooked elbow macaroni in casserole dish. Stir in 2 cups shredded cheese, top with bread crumbs and bake until bubbly. Add chopped pickled peppers for a colorful variation.
  • Gazpacho, a cold summer soup that makes the most of garden veggies, is a refreshing start to any meal. In a blender or food processor, puree tomatoes, onions, green pepper, and cucumbers or zucchini. Thin with a little tomato juice and add hot pickled pepper juice to taste for a tangy zip.
  • Want to give some gusto to a Bloody Mary . . . add pickle juice! The piquant elixir is a delicious complement to the tomato juice. Don't forget to garnish with a pickle spear instead of the usual celery stick! For a fiery brunch treat, try a Hot Blooded Mary. It features a splash of hot pickled pepper juice and a pickled cherry pepper garnish.
  • You've heard of squeezing a wedge of lime into your beer. Now, adding some dill pickle juice to your brew could be the next craze. Stir 1/8 cup dill pickle liquid into 12 ounces of your favorite beer and garnish with a pickle spear or baby dill.

Of course, some folks even drink pickle and sauerkraut juice straight as a tonic! We've even heard of athletes who drink pickle juice as a way to replenish the salt after their workouts.

While those libations may not be your cup of tea, with so many great uses for the juices, pickled vegetables are certainly good to the last drop.