Perfecting the Pickle: Pairing Passion with Science

The key to a perfect pickle? Crisp crunch, strong flavor, and a background in molecular and microbiology. Matt Behringer, founder of Behringer Pepper Company (BPC) has mastered the art of crafting the perfect pickle. While many pickle companies have to rely on stabilizers, preservatives, and added sugars to keep their product fresh, Matt, a molecular and microbiologist by training relies on his years of experience in the sciences and the kitchen to create a delicious pickle. The new line of BPC Garlic Dill pickles is a fusion of two passions: food and science.

Like most food business stories, Behringer Pepper Company started with what Matt would call “a hobby that got out of control.” Matt started experimenting with fermentation and soon found himself making any and all types of fermented foods, including kombucha, kimchi, pickles, and hot sauce. The hot sauce was what really took off and it wasn’t long before Matt had, “a basement filled with more cases of hot sauce than you would ever need.” Matt quickly realized that his business was heating up (pun intended) and he wanted to take things to the next level. 

That’s when Behringer Pepper Company was born: a company focused on natural preservation and fusing a passion for food with scientific knowledge. Behringer Pepper Company is dedicated to leveraging Matt’s passion for food in pursuit of products that are better than the sum of their parts. In July 2020, Behringer Pepper Company launched their first products, a line of fermented and flavorful hot sauces. 

With Behringer Pepper Company’s line of hot sauces keeping things spicy in Union Kitchen stores and other local retailers across the DC area, Matt decided to fire up a new line of fermented goods: spicy pickles. However, Matt ran into a big challenge maintaining consistency in his pickle recipe. On several occasions, brave taste testers of the infamous scorpion pepper pickle were left in tears or running to find the nearest glass of milk, including Andrew Geffken, head of Problem Solving at Union Kitchen. He shared that “you could taste the flavor but also a lot of heat!” 

Unlike his taste testers, Matt didn’t get choked up on his spicy pickle recipe. Like any successful entrepreneur, Matt pivoted and decided to refocus on the fundamentals of making the perfect seasoning blend for something more simple: a really good pickle. Matt’s scientific background is evident in his decision to pivot: “We can make a really good pickle spicy, but it's hard on the other end to make a spicy pickle really good.” 

It turns out that making a really good, simple pickle was exactly where Matt needed to start. Pickles have a long and robust history, dating back thousands of years and to the likes of everyone from Cleopatra to Shakespeare. Yet the process for making a pickle has remained largely the same over many years: immerse fresh cucumbers in an acidic or saltwater brine until they are no longer susceptible to spoilage. Pickling is a scientific process. When fresh cucumbers are immersed in the brine, microorganisms turn naturally occurring sugars in the food into lactic acid. This quickly turns the surrounding environment acidic, thus making it impossible for the bad (spoiling) kind of bacteria to grow. For many home cooks, a salt and vinegar brine is the solution of choice for making cucumber pickles. And, some claim the added bonus that pickle juice is a great cure for dehydration. 

Not surprisingly, Matt's molecular science background allowed him to further refine the pickling process using modern day technology. This is how he landed on his garlic dills-- a fresh packed, never heated, refrigerated pickle that is free from stabilizers, added preservatives, and added sugars. Simply just cucumbers, herbs, and spices fermented to create the perfect pickle. 

Matt’s advice for aspiring food business founders? Be passionate about your product. 

“I’m not going to Marie Kondo you, but if your product’s not bringing you joy, how are you going to push it? How are you going to make it every day, how are you going to sell it?” 

Behringer Pepper Company’s Garlic Dill Peppers are certainly a reflection of Matt’s passion for food and science. Despite the many taste tester tears, Matt is very excited to have his less spicy, more traditional Garlic Dill Pickles now available at all Union Kitchen stores.