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How to Make Sweet Pickle Juice

 I have a fruitcake cookie recipe that calls for 3/4 cup sweet pickle juice, 3 teaspoons soda, and 3 tablespoons buttermilk. With these ingredients is there anything I can substitute for the sweet pickle juice? I hate buying a jar of sweet pickles just for the juice. Please help.

 We were going to say something mocking about your reluctance to go out on that financial limb to the tune of $2 or so and buy a small bottle of pickles, but then we saw that you are in the United Arab Emirates, and we do not know how much sweet pickles cost there. Plus, we're trying to be not so mocking these days. Apparently there are people who do not appreciate it….

The logical step would be for you to pretend you were going to make pickles yourself and whip up a batch of picking brine. It is likely, however, to be more trouble than tracking down a bottle of sweet pickles in the United Arab Emirates.

First, you only need 3/4 cup, and any recipe we've found makes quarts. Second, the list of ingredients is not short and is going to cost a lot more than a bottle of pickles unless you have many of the ingredients on hand already. A sweet pickle brine generally includes mustard seeds, celery seeds, allspice berries, turmeric or cinnamon in some form (cinnamon stick or cassia buds), cloves, ginger and/or mace, and possibly coriander seeds and bay leaves, along with sugar or honey and vinegar.

It is also possible to purchase "pickling spices," (although even the mainstream American spice producers are not promoting it very well, so an online hunt may be the only option for most people). Depending on which brand you purchase, a commercial pickling spice is likely to include in some combination cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, coriander, bay leaves, ginger, chilies, cloves, black pepper, mace, cardamom, and possibly dill seed, star anise, and/or juniper berries.

As a public service, we are providing a recipe for pickling spices. Then it's simply a matter of figuring out how much water, how much vinegar, and how much sugar or honey to use, figuring out at what temperature and how long to steep the pickling spices in the liquid solution, then draining and measuring the liquid and adding it to your fruitcake recipe. We would mix a half cup of water, half cup of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar or honey, and 1/8th-teaspoon of picking spices in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. After allowing it to cool, we would strain the liquid, measure 3/4 cup, and add that to your recipe.

Frankly, the easiest solutions – in the UAE, USA, or anywhere else – would be to find a slightly less innovative recipe or to trundle to the store to pick up a jar of sweet pickles.

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