Chow Town

KC couple put their heart and soul into Kansas City Canning Co.

The best thing to pair with your beer at Boulevardia this weekend may be a pickle. Not just any pickle, but a barrel-aged pickle crafted by Kansas City Canning Co.’s Laura and Tim Tuoy.

The fermented cucurbits are just the latest of the Tuoys’ collaborative products that highlight their modern twist on canning alongside local favorites like Boulevard beer.

Two other collaborations with Boulevard include an unfiltered hoppy pickle, and Kansas City Canning Co. preserves with charcuterie as a pairing for The Calling IPA. Both options are served at Boulevard brewery’s visitor center.

Green Dirt Farm is another local co-creator with the Tuoys. Kansas City Canning Co. preserves are the “fruit on the bottom” of Green Dirt’s yogurt and its ice cream features Clementine-Thyme Marmalade.

The couple first served this signature preserve as a cocktail with bourbon at their wedding. The concoction marked the beginning of their marriage, and the beginning of their business.

“Everyone at the wedding said you should sell this. And the idea took hold after a while,” says Laura.

Most people would be overwhelmed enough with a pre-wedding move from New York back to Kansas, a new job as a therapist for Cerner for Laura, and starting a new marriage. But, just six months after the wedding, the two launched Kansas City Canning Co.

“Tim and I have always been idea people, and open to cool challenges. We didn’t stop long enough to think about it, we just did it,” she adds.

What the two did find overwhelming — in the best way — is the support they have received from Kansas City’s food community. The couple sources produce for their products locally from groups like CultivateKC, New Roots for Refugees, Boys Grow and Powell Gardens.

“Last year, we did a demo with Powell Gardens, and they have been so helpful and supportive for us even though we are small,” says Laura.

That chef demo event led to the Tuoys returning to Powell Gardens this year as chefs for the first event of the Missouri Barn Dinner Series. The series runs May through October and provides a unique venue to experience one-of-a-kind menus from Kansas City’s best chefs and newcomers like the Tuoys.

The dinner sold out with a menu that featured Kansas City Canning Co. preserves and shrubs along with produce sourced just steps from the table in the Heartland Harvest Garden.

“We feel a large sense of responsibility to drive local agriculture in a good way,” Laura says. “Whatever we can use locally, we do. We focus on minimizing food waste.”

Taking on surplus produce and using creativity to salvage every bit of the harvest isn’t just a matter of food ethics for the Tuoys. It’s the secret to their success.

“We were trying to make a pear butter, but we don’t use a lot of pectin, which can blunt the food flavors,” Laura explains. “When you rely on the natural pectin in the food, sometimes it doesn’t work. We thought, well, should we make a shrub?”

That happy accident became Kansas City Canning Co.’s award-winning Smoked Spice Pear Shrub. Not surprisingly, the effort was also a collaboration; this time with Wood and Salt. As accolades and awards add up, it’s hard to believe Kansas City Canning Co. has been part of our food community for less than two years.

But canning is not a new practice to Laura or Tim. Laura, a Kansas native, learned the art of preserving a harvest with her grandmother and recipes that had been in her family for generations.

For Tim, who grew up in Pennsylvania, canning was part of both family tradition and his training at the Institute of Culinary Education. The two started canning and collaborating together shortly after they met.

“Tim and I look at what’s coming up in growing season and bounce ideas off one another and then try it,” says Laura. “Canning or preserving has a dated lens, but the reality is that it is how we had food. For us, it’s about how do we take a modern bend so that people can celebrate the art and history of food preservation and still embrace something a bit different.”

Sometimes the ideas come to them. After a difficult season last year, the Tuoys got a call from a farmer with 200 pounds of half-ripe tomatoes that were not green enough for pickling or ripe enough for canning. They decided to make Half-Ripe Tomato Relish instead.

When the Tuoys are not rescuing tomatoes, they are hard at work in their new space, a former Town Topic building in the East Bottoms. Laura still works full time as a therapist at Cerner. Tim also works at Tom’s Town, where he is culinary manager, in charge of menu and recipe development.

Fortunately for all of us, the two still find time to create new products. Kansas City Canning Co.’s next creation always depends on our local growing season, but the Tuoys do have some new products planned in their lineup.

A pickled Bloody Mary mix will extend their cocktail line, and two products that leverage fermentation; a Missouri Black Garlic Paste due out later in June, and of course, the Barrel-aged Hoppy pickle.

Beth Bader is a cook, local food advocate, co-author of the book The Cleaner Plate Club, and a member of the board for Powell Gardens.

More information

The Powell Gardens’ Missouri Barn Dinner series continues through October, featuring some of Kansas City’s best chefs. Tickets are still available for upcoming events. Information can be found on the Powell Gardens website.

Boulevardia takes place this weekend, June 17-19. Information can be found online at boulevardia.com

You can find product and contact information for Kansas City Canning Co. online at kansascitycanningco.com

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