It's been said here before: sauerkraut is the new kimchi, and Local Culture is proof this trend is still hot. The company launched in June, selling out of sauerkraut at their very first farmers market. Pretty incredible results for Sarah Frost-McKee and Paul Trendler, both full-time school teachers.
Frost-McKee and Trendler (doesn't that sound like a new cop show on Netflix, with an '80s twist?) are a married couple, the kind you instantly like—a casual Northwest vibe, smiling often and lighting up when they talk. The pair started making fermented foods when they were expecting their first child, knowing they'd be busy and wanting access to quick, ready-made, healthy food. Fermented foods go through lacto-fermentation, a process in which natural bacteria feeds on the sugar and starch in the food, creating lactic acid. The process preserves the food and creates enzymes, probiotics, Omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins, making it more digestible and nutrient dense.
Frost-McKee has a culinary background and Trendler has experience with brewing kombucha and beer. They started like a lot of experimenters do; getting their friends hooked on their kimchi. The friends pushed them to make more of their delicious, spicy, fermented cabbage.
The couple also noticed no one else in town was producing local ferments, so they looked for commercial kitchen space. With Bend growing so rapidly, that took months. Their first space was at a local restaurant they could only access when the restaurant was closed. But recently, Prep: a Chefs' Kitchen opened, offering the couple a space made specifically for businesses like theirs. Now they can work anytime they want, so they make and deliver ferments around their school schedules.
Local Culture produces five different flavors of sauerkraut and one seasonal variety made using organic produce from local farms. Their kraut is crunchy and alive, in contrast to the traditional soft kraut often found on store shelves, typically pasteurized and containing vinegar, and sometimes chemicals.
Local Culture sauerkraut flavor profiles are pretty exciting; even their version of a traditional kraut includes raw Cascade hops. That Central Oregon flair continues in the high desert kraut, featuring juniper berries, apples, sage and green cabbage. Trendler said when he first tried the high desert kraut it made him do the "good bite dance." I think they need to post what that looks like on their social media sites, don't you?
- For the pickle lover in all of us. Brine Shots.
I'm most excited to try the sunshine salsa kraut, similar to the spicy Salvadoran cabbage relish curtido. It has cabbage, jalapeños, carrots, garlic and onion—ideal to add to tacos or even eggs. Frost-McKee and Trendler are great at reminding us how versatile sauerkraut can be. It's not just for a brat or reuben, they say; kraut can be eaten as a condiment on just about anything: tacos, salads, bagels with cream cheese, or burgers. And get this: they'll even top a hot, fresh from the oven pizza with sauerkraut. It sounds a little wild but I can't wait to try it. Maybe that will land on the trend list next year.
I recently sampled their seasonal apple fennel caraway kraut. Upon opening the bag there was hardly any aroma, but as I got close I could smell a light sourness. The thinly-shredded cabbage was really crisp and crunchy and I could still taste the cabbage through the sour notes of the fermentation. I ate it as a snack on its own and found it delicious wrapped in the few leftover slices of ham I had in my fridge.
You can find Local Culture products in local markets including Market of Choice, Newport Market, and Locavore. Whole Foods will be carrying them very soon, the couple says, and you can also eat their sauerkraut when dining at Crux and Wild Oregon Foods. While the business is growing rapidly, you'll still see Trendler out on his cargo bike, doing deliveries.
Ironically though, they haven't been able to recreate that famous kimchi their friends loved on a commercial scale—but they're still trying.