SAVOR THE SEASON: Small town produce in Small Town Cultures

Small Town Cultures owner Cori Deans holds a bowl filled with fiddleheads. (Provided photo — Cori Deans)

KEENE — Cori Deans started her business with a few recipes she enjoyed.

Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, the Lake Placid native said she decided to incorporate more fermented foods into her diet to try to flush out bad bacteria. What started as a lifestyle change snowballed into Small Town Cultures, a Keene-based fermentation business — and into a full-time career.

“I kind of fell into it,” she said.

When Deans looked around for fermented food, which are rich in probiotics, she realized what she was looking for didn’t seem to exist.

“It was during that process that I realized how lacking the local fermented food scene was,” she said. “The business was born out of need … ‘I want to eat this way, but it’s not there.'”

Deans started fermenting food for herself, but soon she found herself holed up in her sister’s space, the Good Bite Kitchen on Main Street in Lake Placid, churning out large orders for distribution. Then she invested in a kitchen of her own.

“Ten years on, now this is just a way of life,” Deans said. “I ferment, I eat it, I don’t have symptoms, and haven’t had symptoms for a while.”

Small Town Cultures offers familiar fermented foods, with a twist. Kimchi, usually made with nappa cabbage, is made with cabbage, carrots, garlic, ginger, turmeric and other spices. There’s apple sauce, but fermented with lemon juice and cinnamon.

“We try to make things that are both recognizable as well as things that are a little bit more fun, creative and that you may not see anywhere else,” Deans said.

Deans sources nearly all of the ingredients locally, at farms such as Juniper Hill and Fledging Crow. She often uses the produce that’s ugly or damaged or too small to sell. Freshly grown produce is often stored in probiotic-rich soil, she said, and the fermentation process allows those probiotics to propagate. Small Town Cultures uses a lacto-fermentation process.

“It’s like old school pickling,” Deans said. “We don’t add vinegar. We don’t add sugar. It’s all naturally derived acid, so it really allows the produce to shine.”

Small Town Cultures products are available at a variety of local grocery stores, including Green Goddess in Lake Placid, Cedar Run in Keene and Nori’s in Saranac Lake. Deans tables at five different farmers markets. There’s also an online web store. For more information, visit smalltowncultures.com.