Folks getting pickled for pickle juice

Frozen Pickle Juice

By BOB HANSEN / for The Hawk Eye | Posted Feb 12, 2017 at 12:01 AM | Updated Feb 12, 2017 at 2:30 AM

Pass up that sugary Slurpee and don’t spend money on over-priced energy drinks because there’s a new taste concoction in Burlington. It’s semi-frozen pickle juice — the slushy taste adventure created from the briny liquid left in the bottom of the jar when the last gherkin has been grabbed.

Presently, pickle proponents can purchase the slushy mix only at a local roller skating facility and the concession stand at Notre Dame High School basketball games. However, pickle promoters hope it might find wider acceptance.

The pickle pops first flowered at the local basketball games when a group of concessionaire volunteers noted the pickled cucumbers were enjoying a steady demand from young customers. But after the large gallon jars had been emptied, there still was a considerable amount of salty and vinegary liquid left behind.

The parsimonious pickle pushers were reluctant to dump the brine and began to explore freezing it for sale. Immediately, the experimenters learned the high salt content prevented the mix from becoming solid and a true pickle pop could not be offered. The best they could achieve was a semi-frozen soup.

Nevertheless, the volunteers persisted and offered the slush in individual plastic serving cups. Soon, students and fans were watching the basketball action with their noses buried in small white cups

Karen Marino, who helps out at the Notre Dame concession counter, reported the juice has been offered for sale for at least two years. “I’m not really a pickle person,” she explained, “so I don’t understand the attraction. But they seem to be what the kids want.

“They are so popular that we tried another variation; using cherry juice that we had left over but that is not nearly as good a seller. But pickle pops do well, and we make about $11 out of every jar of liquid that we used to throw out.”

Coulter Fruehling, a student at Notre Dame who often purchases a pickle cup when he attends his school’s ballgames, said the attraction is the strong salt taste.

“You pick up some of the pickle taste but it is mainly the salt that I like and I have a lot of friends that buy it for the same reason,” he said.

At Kenny’s Roller Ranch, owner Tim Barraclough considers the Notre Dame pickle purveyors a pack of late-comers, for he claims he has been offering cups of frozen brine since 2001, when his daughter in North Carolina told him of the treats popularity in that state.

“It has been a regular here for a long time but we don’t make it out of any type of pickle juice. We go for the kosher dill because of the strong garlic taste,” Barraclough said.

Unfrozen pickle juice long has been recognized for its restorative qualities by high endurance athletes. Athletes often will quaff about one-third of a cup for an almost instantaneous relief of muscle cramps. The salt restores an electrolyte balance while the vinegar stops nerve signals from cramped muscles.

Burlington’s George VanHagen, physical therapist assistant at Great River Medical Center, also can attest to the competitive advantages gained from drinking pickle juice. In November, he attended the USA Cycling Summit in Colorado Springs and the brine was the subject for discussion.

Jennifer O’Donnell-Giles told the athletes and medical professionals attending the conference pickle juice has been the rage in the race circuit for the last few seasons. She cited a study at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, that found the juice has a positive impact on the body’s electrolytes and prevents muscle cramps.

But regardless of the causation, athletes are turning to pickle juice as part of their pre-race preparation.

There also are arguments regular shots of pickle juice can have long-term health benefits. It can act as a shield against the dreaded free radicals, promote weight loss and aid the digestive system. A less beneficial — yet enjoyable quality — is it makes a great “dirty martini” when mixed with vodka.

The miracle of pickle juice plays out even in the kitchen, where it is used for cleaning the bottom of copper pots.

It appears there is little pickle juice cannot do, so the skaters and basketball fans downing the ice mix may be on the cutting edge of the next great trend in health drinks.

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