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Bend Entrepreneurial Couple Serves Up Sweet Success...With Sauerkraut

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Brian Bull
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KLCC

A couple in Bend have turned their passion for fermentation into a new business.  KLCC’s Brian Bull visits the founders of Local Culture, a pair of teachers that are enjoying sweet success with sauerkraut.

Inside the PREP commissary kitchen in Bend, Paul Trendler works a device that looks like a Cuisinart on steroids. He’s got a box of cabbages at the ready.

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Shredding the cabbage! Frost Mckee says a quarter ton makes roughly 50 gallons of sauerkraut.

“You can put a whole head of cabbage in, and if they’re small, even more.”

Paul’s wife, Sarah Frost McKee, looks over a giant tote of shredded cabbage sitting on the silver counter space.

“We went through about 500 lbs."

(BULL: How much sauerkraut does that make?)

"That will make about 50 gallons.”

It’s quite the undertaking for a home-spun enterprise that started just over half a year ago. Paul says it all began with the couple’s kimchi recipe.

“We had a bunch of friends we’d made come over, they said “Hey, you really gotta start making more of this, start sharing it”, and that’s kinda where it all started.”

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Melding ingredients for High Desert Kraut, by hand.

Wearing plastic gloves, Paul dives his hands into a mound of glistening slaw, melding apple, berries, juniper, and sage into the stringy mass.

“Right now I’m mixing some of our High Desert Kraut, and we’re putting it into the buckets that we’re going to be fermenting in."

(BULL: How long do they ferment for?) 

"Between one and four weeks.”

Paul says he joined a fermentation club while a student at Oregon State University.  Early projects included beers and kombuchas. Eventually he tackled sauerkraut. He now teaches middle school, while Sarah works with fourth graders. When they launched their company, Local Culture, this spring they endeavored to support local farmers, using organic items.

“We are currently getting our cabbage from the Willamette Valley," says Frost McKee. "We try to source as much of our produce as we can, locally.  Pretty happy that we can get all of our ingredients from about a 100 mile radius of where we are.   It’s pretty awesome.”

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Various versions of Local Culture brand sauerkraut, that have been released since the company started up in the spring of 2017.

Six months in, Sarah and Paul have managed to create a hefty line of sauerkraut.  They open the door to PREP’s cooler where several of their products are stored.

“So this is our apple fennel kraut, which is one of our seasonal varieties right now.    This is our Cascade Kraut…so it’s a classic sauerkraut and hops, apple in there too.  Our sunshine salsa, it’s kind of our take on an El Salvadoran Curtido, lots of garlic and onion in there…"

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Local Culture Kraut
Odin Muir, Paul and Sarah's son, samples Local Culture sauerkraut on a regular basis.

One key member of Local Culture’s staff is Odin.  He’s Paul and Sarah’s toddler, and taste tester.

“He’s been eating sauerkraut since he could eat solid foods.  He absolutely loves it, he eats it by the fistful.”

Several Bend area stores and restaurants stock Local Culture krauts, including Market of Choice and Wild Oregon Locavore. The couple says they’re taking things slow, with hopes to expand past Bend one day.

“We didn’t anticipate any of this really, this has been kind of a wild ride," says Frost McKee  "Like I said, we’re still both full-time school teachers, so this is very much a side hobby and passion right now. 

"The success we’ve had in such a short time gets us excited about the future.”

“In five to ten years, it’d be really awesome to see like a larger community just being engaged and excited about wild fermented foods," adds Trendler.

"Sauerkraut is one of those opportunities to have good, gut healthy cultures, without adding in sugars or making it alcoholic.  It’s just a really fun food product to work with.”

And as far as that famous kimchi they make at home that got this whole enterprise started? Funny enough, Paul Trendler says it’s not quite ready for prime time.

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Local Culture Kraut
Paul Trendler prepares to deliver sauerkraut across Bend on his bike.

“No, not so far.  Soon as we tried to scale up, it wasn’t quite hitting that note that we really wanted it to, so we haven’t brought that to market yet.”

Paul even delivers Local Culture’s specialty krauts on bike across town, while Sarah and Odin stay home and refine future recipes.

Copyright 2017, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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