Kansas City Canning Co. talks shrubs, balsamic grapes & flavor creation

Kansas City Canning Co. is on shelves now.

Kansas City Canning Co. is on shelves now.

Ancho Date Butter, Rosemary Fig Spread, Balsamic Pickled Grape…these aren’t your grandma’s canning recipes. They’re the creations of husband and wife team Laura and Tim Tuohy, who launched The Kansas City Canning Co. — a small batch producer of preserves, spreads and (soon) shrubs — late last year.

The pair met in New York City, where they discovered a mutual love of canning (both had been taught as kids by their families) thanks to a sour cherry tree in the backyard of their home in Astoria, Queens. They moved to Kansas City in 2013. Laura works as a clinical therapist and Tim is a sous chef at Beer Kitchen. And now, they’re hoping to bring new taste combinations and some innovation to a very traditional method of preservation.

The Recommended Daily caught up with Laura Tuohy to find out what’s next for the Kansas City Canning Co. Their products are available at The Sundry, Westside Storey, Olive Tree, Urban Provisions and Season + Square. They’ll begin selling online on Monday, January 26.

(1) What flavor are you hooked on right now? I really love our balsamic grapes. They’re unexpected, and surprisingly versatile. There’s a warmth to the intensity of the vinegar, but the star anise, cinnamon and brine-y quality of the pickling spices sort of adds this really rich bite to the back end. They really have the ability to dress a cheese plate up or make a salad less, well, salad-y. Muddle with gin or vodka for a nice spin on a gimlet- that’s been a favorite of mine since Tim started making them.

(2) What’s the plan for 2015? We’re really looking forward to expanding our relationships with our growers- Boys Grow, New Roots for Refugees, Uproot Market — vendors and people in KC. Planting seeds, literally and figuratively in all these areas is such a huge part of what we want to do- trying new things, new flavors- really expanding the concept of canning and preserving in a modern, relevant way.

We were at the Boys Grow farm last week, picking seeds for the coming season, walking around the pastures. It was pretty incredible to have such a visceral experience and memory. I’m excited to see how that translates to our process and communicating that care to what we create. Working seasonally and in small batches is an exciting and challenging process. It requires patience and flexibility across the board. We’re ready to go wherever that might take us.

The blood orange ginger paloma, a cocktail made with KCCC's blood orange ginger shrub.

The blood orange ginger paloma, a cocktail made with KCCC’s blood orange ginger shrub.

(3) What are you experimenting with currently? Shrubs and syrups. We’re having such a great time experimenting with these, toying with cocktail recipes. We’ve got two shrubs included in our winter series [available on January 26th] — Blood Orange Ginger and Apple Caraway. We’re excited about what we’re going to do with shrubs in the coming seasons, the opportunities to push boundaries in flavor profiles and use is just endless.

(4) Can you walk us through the creation of a flavor. For instance, how does something like clementine thyme marmalade come about? Creating flavors for us usually starts with taking a look at what’s available seasonally, then spit-balling all sorts of ideas until we find one or two that really sticks. We spend quite a bit of time yelling spices at each other from across the house. Cardamom? Maybe! Rosewater? I’d try it! Tarragon? Yes. Absolutely.

Then we usually start the long process of testing.  We’ll make something as many times as it takes to get it just right. Our Clementine Thyme Marmalade was one of the first things we made, and a real challenge, balance wise. Tim is sort of a purist in that way, sugar and pectin are the last things he considers when making a recipe. It’s so easy to just dump a bunch of sugar or pectin in to bind- and fruit has a way of really masking excess sugar, but then you end up basically eating a skittle. The beauty of that canning process is that you’re able to really taste what was happening at another point in time, which to me almost translates to one of the most magical experiences you can have with food.

That process of creating and experience is what really drives for us- we want to create something that offers a real balance of flavor, and the hallmark of that is how something tasted right when we got it. At the end, respecting the product enough to leave it alone is the end-all, be-all of what we’re trying to do. After we test, we’ll start to batch it, in small quantities that are hand numbered. Sometimes we’ll do multiple runs, sometimes less- it just depends on the quantity and quality of what we’re able to obtain ingredient wise.

KC Canning Co.'s Apple Caraway Press cocktail.

KC Canning Co.’s Apple Caraway Press cocktail.

(5) Got a cocktail recipe you’d like to share to keep us warm in winter? I can’t get enough of our Apple Caraway Shrub recently. This is a perfect cocktail for the winter months, a little riff on a press- the Rye Whiskey and anise flavors are the perfect compliment to the shrub.

Apple Caraway Press

1oz Kansas City Canning Co. Apple Caraway Shrub

2oz Rye Whiskey

.25oz anise liquor

Club Soda

Mix shrub, whiskey and anise liquor, shake and pour over ice in a highball glass. Top with club soda.

[Cocktail images via Kansas City Canning Co.]

Jonathan Bender

Jonathan Bender is the founder of The Recommended Daily.

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