Spotlight Interview: Backyard Brine

Kopke Picks and Pickle Tricks

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The craft conversation tends to revolve around locally sourced beer spirits, but man can’t live on brews alone—he (and she) should at least get some greens somewhere in there too. For locavores seeking foods with “relish,” consider the artisan pickles of Backyard Brine. HM checked in with Brine proprietors Randy and Cori Kopke to explore the dill deal.

It’s a pretty genius idea, starting an artisan pickle company, as it’s a safe bet almost everyone likes or loves a pickle… and now the treat is your life’s work! Do people often say, “Why didn’t I think of this?”

We love the response and conversations we have with our customers. It seems everyone has an interesting pickle story, family recipe, or pickling tradition. The best is when we receive letters or feedback that one of our recipes reminds them of their family’s recipe. We love that! 

You employ original recipes, yes? How does one develop pickle-making methods? Trial and error? Family secrets? It’s got to be a tough road to start.

We have test kitchen days were we head to the kitchen with a mission. We have ideas and ingredients and start whipping up recipes. Sometimes they are terrible and go straight to the trash, others are promising and head to the next round of family and friends taste testing.

Assuredly you wouldn’t pick a favorite among your creations, but could you admit which of your pickles is the most in-demand?

We definitely have our favorites. Randy is a salty dill kind of guy and his favorite is the Rowdy Pepper Belly’s, our spicy habanero dill. He puts them on everything, even pizza. Cori is a bread & butter girl. Her favorite is the Pumpernickel Ry-Ry and she just eats them right out of the jar. Our best sellers change throughout the year when we introduce our seasonal flavors like BBQ Betty Lou’s and Holiday Thyme.

Most would assume one would pitch a pickle for siding purposes, with hot dogs, burgers, etc., but there is a consistent use of your items in tandem with wine and beer. How did the notion of Backyard Brine + an adult beverage evolve?

This evolved from our beginning taste testing days in our home kitchen. We would lure our friends over for happy hour and to try our new recipes. We didn’t have to twist too many arms. It was fun so we thought we would bring the idea to the masses and we hosted our first “Spears and Beers” event at our local craft beer pub. The turnout was incredible, and we continue to host these events at different locations throughout the year.

Let’s put you on the spot: I’m relaxing, enjoying a local Long Island-born craft beer—which of your pickles works best? Or are there particular brews that match especially well with your briny cuces?

The fun is really in the process of the taste test and finding your own favorites. We have found the Rowdy’s pair well with the hoppy IPAs and the Pump Ry’s go really well with a nice dark stout.

Now let’s talk vino: do pickles go better with red or white? Or both? Give us a couple of great matches (pickle + wine) you recommend.

We sell a lot of jars of Dill Death Do Us Part and Everything Bread and Butters at Jamesport Vineyard. They seem to pair well with the summer whites.

Our chocolate covered pickles are delicious with Long Island Reds. North Fork Chocolate takes our Pumpernickel Ry-Ry and covers them in Dark Chocolate and sprinkles them with local sea salt. It may sound strange, but they are really good.

Backyard Brine seems to be growing and making a name for itself, and it’s not unusual for LI-based, small-batch products to be a big hitWhere do you see Backyard Brine in five years? Purposely small and beloved? Supermarkets across the USA? Is there an ultimate goal in mind when creating a special, original and creative—yet possibly tremendous—venture like artisan pickles?

We are planning on taking our pickles nationwide and on a world tour. We will also be introducing some exciting new products. You will have to stay tuned.