Before there was refrigeration, there was fermentation, a way of keeping foods around longer in all sorts of weather. The Germans have sauerkraut, and the Koreans have kimchee. Nearly every culture has something that uses natural processes to alter food and by doing so creates something marvelous. And as nutritionists have discovered, fermented food is good for you, too.
Enter jovial sister team Lauren and Simone Temkin, who produce Cultured & Saucy, a fermented condiment line that will please both vegans and carnivores alike. Their fermented salsas and sauces come in six varieties: Curry Chutney with Lime, Ginger and Turmeric; Dill Dijon Mustard with Lemon and Garlic; Exotic 5 Spice; Ginger Mint Saffron; Lime Chili Salsa; and Herbs de Provence. The sisters prefer to refer to the products as “condiments”; their product is so versatile, they say, that “sauce” doesn’t do it justice. Call it marinade and folks might not spread it on crackers or mix it in with mayo to make a dip.
“Do we target the wine and cheese gourmet?” wondered Lauren. “Or the meat and fish marinade audience? Or do we go toward the totally raw, totally natural people? Ultimately, we are going to target all.”
The condiments can be used in many ways. The only rule is to avoid double dipping: Your bacteria will have adverse affects on what is a living organism in a jar.
“Our products are made out of food — just fermented onions, garlic, chilies, citrus and spices,” Lauren Temkin told the News-Press. “Nothing else.”
“Nothing’s added,” said Simone. “Our probiotics are naturally occurring.”
Most shoppers’ experience with probiotics comes from either the powdered form in the supplement section of the local supermarket or delivered in health yogurts. “Live probiotics have things that a capsule doesn’t have,” said Lauren.
Probiotics are what keep our stomachs healthy and aid digestion. And pre-biotics — the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables — help support the growth of probiotics.
Beyond the science, though, pre-biotics can help start breaking down food before it’s consumed. Also, the naturally occurring citric and lactic acids help tenderize meat, and they’ve turned tough cuts of meat — buffalo shoulder, anyone? — into tender ones through marinading.
While visiting Lauren’s Westside house, the News-Press got a taste of Cultured & Saucy’s product. Open a jar and the smell of lactic acid familiar to kimchee hits the nose and gets the mouth salivating. The texture is like a thick, but not chunky, salsa. The Herbs de Provence mixed with honey and cream cheese made a complex but sweet spread, while the Lime Chili Salsa complemented a tender cut of beef with a tangy punch. Mixed into hummus, the Ginger Mint Saffron added subtle notes. There’s not too much heat to any of the condiments, much less than Tabasco, so those looking for a mild alternative to hot sauce can consider this.
Lauren, the older of the two, came to fermentation through having a weak stomach.
“I am one of those people who is actually gluten-intolerant,” she said with a laugh.
She’s not being trendy or health-conscious. Gluten made her swell up like a big, painful balloon. “I found how much fermented foods helped me,” she said. “It became an addiction and really an obsession.”
So she started to experiment in the kitchen. And that’s where Simone came in.
For a while, Simone ran Abundance Catering, a local, word-of-mouth company that worked the yoga-retreat circuit, weddings and similar venues. She helped Lauren experiment with vegetables of all kinds, and their first success, a gremolata, was a hit at her wedding anniversary party at Toma, the Italian restaurant on Cabrillo.
With plenty of encouragement from family, friends and chefs they knew, the sisters got serious. They now work out of a shared kitchen in Goleta, where they make up 55 gallons of each condiment at a time. They jar it, attach a label and plastic-wrap it all by themselves.
They premiered their product last July at Fermentation Fest, which took place at Fairview Gardens in Goleta. Local restaurateurs took note and both Sama Sama Kitchen and Toma have been using their products. Michael Blackwell, chef at Montecito Country Club, also plans to feature them, as does Melissa Costello of Karma Chow.
The sisters have managed to get their products into Lassen’s Natural Foods, Isabella Gourmet Foods, Tri-County Produce, Santa Barbara Public Market and Whole Foods, which just signed up. And they are off to San Francisco for the Fancy Food Show, the West Coast’s largest specialty food and beverage trade show that runs Sunday through Tuesday.
The sisters believe they are the first probiotic condiment line, and one of their goals for 2015 is to connect with other probiotic food manufacturers and increase the profile and awareness of this kind of food. If the supplement aisle can announce it, Lauren says, so can the deli section.
“We want to empower people in the kitchen to cook simply and healthily,” said Simone. “We want them to have a good friend in the kitchen, so they can open a jar and feel confident that it’s really good food.”
Cultured & Saucy condiments are offered in 8-ounce jars and have a suggested retail price of $6.50 to $8. For more information or to purchase, go to www.culturedandsaucy.com.