Simon and I love discovering innovative new products and meeting their creators, as there is often an interesting story behind their creation. We continue our series of blog posts on fermented and preserved food & drink, a hot topic and growing trend.
Binary Botanical is one such story of fermentation and so much more. Brewed like a beer, drunk like a wine, created in Woking Surrey, brewed in Sussex in U.K., lower in alcohol, gluten free, vegan, gently sparkling, a unique refreshing taste, great with food and in cocktails. I was definitely intrigued to find out more. Danielle, Binary’s creator is a Master Brewer, with a background in Chemical Engineering & Innovation, unique within brewing, an Industry that has traditionally been dominated by men. Craft beer has evolved and grown with a big influence from USA craft brewers and now in the U.K. and beyond. Danielle realised the market was aimed at men. Everything from the taste of a bitter full on IPA style, high in malty taste, to the names and label design, and the alcohol content too. She wanted to create a table beer, more delicate in taste, very food friendly, and something slightly healthier, lower in calories and alcohol. A beer that would be about ‘savouring the moment’ all of us could enjoy as a refreshing drink that would enhance not compete with the food. So something complementary and experiential, vegan, and the most important criteria- a great taste!
So does Binary Botanical deliver?
It certainly does, gently sparkling with a taste that reminds me of a dry fruity white wine with hints of elderflower. Served chilled and in a wine or champagne glass, a great alternative to Prosecco with 4% alcohol / vol , which is only 0.5 units of alcohol in a 125 ml glass.
The fruit flavours are complex with hints of pomegranate, peach, guava, grapefruit , pepper and rosemary- refreshment in a glass!
So how did Danielle achieve this? By creating a light beer and infusing it for 5 days with organic hop leaves. The name Binary has a dual meaning. It refers to the bine or stem of the hop plant. Traditionally beer is made with the cone shaped hop flowers, that impart the bitter characteristic. Binary is also a language used in computer processing made up of a series of characters 0 and 1. So from two digits a whole language was created, and Binary takes a similar approach combining simple ingredients and creating something complex in character, with no compromise on taste and quality. So the name Binary really reflects the ‘science & technology meets art’ approach to create this botanical drink.
After drinking it I was inspired to create some recipes to utilise its complex fruity flavour. I decided to create two granita recipes that are easy to make and a perfect dessert for the May Bank Holiday Weekend in U.K. , Memorial Day Holiday in USA and a Summers Day where ever you live. Binary Botanical is available on line and in independents in U.K., check out their website, on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter @binarybotanical. If you can’t manage to get hold of Binary, although I urge you to try it (list of stockists or on line from their website below), I have included an alternative. The recipes are vegan, and can be made alcohol free and without refined sugar.
Binary Botanical, Lime & Lemon Thyme Granita
Ingredients ( serves 4-6):
1 x 250 ml bottle of Binary Botanical or alternatively Fever Tree Tonic Water with no artificial sweetener
Zest and juice of 1 lime
25ml of caster sugar ( I used golden) or agave syrup
75 ml cold water
20 fresh lemon thyme leaves washed ( or use standard thyme)
Optional: If you use tonic you could also add a 25 ml measure of gin
Add the sugar ( or agave syrup ) and water to a small saucepan and heat gently for 3-5 minutes until fully dissolved. Take off the heat and add the lemon thyme leaves to infuse until cool.
Add the Binary Botanical ( or tonic water & gin , if using), lime zest and juice and stir to combine. Add this to a shallow metal baking tray.
The easiest method is to put the tray into an empty drawer in the freezer and then add the liquid to avoid any spills.
Freeze for 30 minutes, then carefully remove from freezer and use a fork to break up the mixture that will start to freeze around the edge.
Put back in the freezer, freeze for 30 minutes and repeat 3 times so the granita is made after 2 hours of freezing and forking the mixture. Transfer to a lidded container and store in the freezer until ready to serve.
Watermelon, Binary Botanical, Mint & Lime Granita
Ingredients ( serves 4-6):
350g fresh watermelon cut into chunks & seeds removed
1 x 250 ml bottle of Binary Botanical or alternatively you could use Prosecco. If you want to make alcohol free just add 250g of extra watermelon.
25ml agave syrup ( or caster sugar)
15 fresh mint leaves washed & finely shredded
Zest and juice of 1/2 fresh lime
Blitz the watermelon in a food processor or blender until a pulp. Sieve out any remaining seeds.
Add the agave syrup ( or sugar) and water to a small saucepan and heat for 3-5 minutes until dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the shredded mint leaves to infuse until cool.
Add the watermelon pulp, Binary Botanical ( or Prosecco), lime zest and juice and combine.
Freeze in a shallow metal baking dish using the method in the 1st recipe above, forking the mixture to break up the ice crystals.
Binary Botanical Granita – Summer Refreshment in a Glass! Thanks Danielle Master Brewer & creator and Tamar, Binary’s Marketing Manager for a refreshing fermentation story- Cheers!
Over the past few years Lindsey and I have been writing our blog, we have heard a number of fascinating stories about how folks came up with the idea for new food and drink products. However, few have been quite as unusual as the tale of how Naftali Engel, a young Chassidic Jew from Queens, New York, fresh out of Talmudic studies at Yeshiva (Orthodox Jewish School) in Israel came up with The Rebbe’s Choice Herring and it’s range of herb and spice infused New York style Herring salads
I stumbled upon The Rebbe’s Choice Herring entirely by accident. I was on a shopping trip to Evergreen in Monsey, NY which is one of the largest Kosher Supermarket’s in the New York region and spotted some rather different packaging in their extensive preserved fish section
Unlike the mainstream versions of pickled, preserved and cured herring, whose labels have regular typeface, pictures of boats, fish and the like, the sketched black and white drawn picture of a Chassidic Rabbi complete with a fur hat and long coat holding an enormous fish in his hands on the labeling of ‘The Rebbe’s Choice’ immediately drew my attention. Then, I noticed the flavor of one of the containers. Smokey Zaatar! I mean, what!? I’ve been eating preserved herring for donkeys years and I had never seen this sort of inventive flavor combo! I had a quick look along the shelf and saw a couple of other interesting flavors in their range including Honey Mustard Sriracha Herring and decided I had to find out more. What inspired the creator of this herring salad?
So, I connected with Naftali, the founder of The Rebbe’s Choice
Back in 2014, Naftali told me, he was in the middle of his studies in Israel and one weekend, on Shabbat, (the Jewish Sabbath) in the mystical Northern Israeli town of Safed in the Galilean hills, he tried some home made herring prepared by a ‘Breslav’ Chassid. He was simply amazed. It was the best herring he’d ever tried. In his words, much better than the rather ordinary herring salads he had been eating in Israel and better than the NY style he had at home. He asked the Chassid who had given it to him – what was the recipe? The response was not quite what Naftali expected…
‘You need to dance with the fishes….’ and recite various prayers
Naftali obtained the basic recipe and on his return to his Yeshiva school, he obtained the ingredients, adjusted them to his taste and then began experimenting with different spices and herbs, coming up with what was eventually to become The Rebbe’s Choice first two herring salad products. Living at the time in Israel, these original spice combinations were inspired by middle eastern / Israeli spices and ingredients one using Israeli Hot Peppers and the other Zaatar, a spice combination commonly used in Israeli cooking. He gave other students and teachers his herring salad combinations to try and they were a very popular hit. His path was set! On his return to the US, Naftali decided to make a go of producing herring salads as a business.
Rather than follow the crowd his aim was to provide a unique product a sort of – Heimishe (home style) meets High End, a craft herring salad product with a spiritual connection for his original orthodox Jewish consumers. He also wanted the product to appeal to people who were looking for something different, using fresh, all natural ingredients with no preservatives or coloring and unusual flavor combinations. Traditional herring with a twist
According to Naftali, the inspiration for all the flavors were closely linked with his studies into famous Rabbis in the Chassidic world and their personalities. For instance, The Israeli hot pepper flavor mentioned above, which became The Rebbe’s Choice – Jalapeno Matjes in the US (see below), was a creative idea inspired by Rebbe David Levov, about whom Naftali was learning about when he came up with that particular spice blend
The Rebbe’s Choice, obtains its main herring ingredient from sustainable sources. Herring in oil from Belarus and pickled herring from Newfoundland. This base product, depending on the final salad, is combined with mixtures of fresh ingredients, spices and herbs and is only prepared in small batches. It is then sold ‘fresh’ in tubs rather than vacuum sealed jars
To date, The Rebbe’s Choice have come up with six unique flavor combinations which we have tried:
Jalapeno Matjes, is full of slices of fresh green hot pepper which offsets well with the cool herring. It’s a great flavor for those looking for those who like a bit of heat
Smokey Zaatar in my opinion is a sort of Sephardi (middle eastern Jewish) meets Ashkenazi (eastern European Jewish) culture clash – you wouldn’t think this herring salad combo would work but it just does – subtle but surprising
Honey Mustard Sriracha – the genesis of this flavor actually started while Naftali was in Israel but finished back in the US – what Naftali was trying to do and I think succeeds with was to get a perfect balance between the heat of the ubiquitous famous asian chili sauce, with the bitter mustard and sweetness of the honey all mixed with the succulent fishy herring chunks
Sweet Black Pepper – was the first all American Rebbe’s Choice product. The base is herring in oil with sweetness coming from the onions and very freshly ground black pepper packing a serious punch
Zesty Matjes – is a bit of a surprise. A sort of Rabbi meets a Priest combination of flavors, full of Italian herbs like oregano and basil infusing the fish. The trick however, is how Naftali has used lemons to pickle the onions mixed with the herring, which creates a citrus like ‘zesty’ element in this salad
Sweet Onion – has a mellow and pleasant taste, quite savory. Instead of just using traditional onions, Naftali has added chives into the mix , adding a soft complexity in the final flavor
Naftali says a new flavor is in the works and this herring aficionado can’t wait to try it!
L’chaim (to Life) !!
The product is Kosher and is currently available in Kosher Food Stores across the USA. You can find out where to buy it and read stories of the Chassidic Rabbis who inspired each flavor Naftali has created, from the following link: