In A Pickle: Seasonal produce inspires Maui Preserved’s homegrown, homestyle pickling and preservingby: Tiffany Hill
posted: Wed Aug 20, 2014 at 09:38 AM
Maui Preserved owner Anthony LaBua-Keiser (middle) talks story with Maui beet farmers. Photo: Sue Hudelson
Drops of aromatic pineapple juice land on my notebook in the middle of a chat with Anthony LaBua-Keiser, owner of Maui Preserved. We’re standing in the kitchen of the company’s Upcountry Maui cannery, as part-timer Gerit Williams individually cores 90 Maui-grown pineapples with an industrial pineapple corer nearby.
“Sorry,” says Williams. “That was a juicy one.”
LaBua-Keiser slices the pineapple into spears with machine-like speed—a sticky process—and offers me some. It’s sweet, delicious and perfect. Under his guidance, however, it’s bound for even loftier palate-pleasing heights as the main ingredient in jars of Maui Preserved’s Sweet & Spicy Maui Pineapple. There, steeped in light Maui-grown cane-sugar syrup with the subtle punch of a fresh, Hawaiian chili pepper, the fruit’s sugary flavor changes in complexity, awakening different taste buds. The spicy-sweet tang makes it one of Maui Preserved’s top-selling products.
LaBua-Keiser and his wife, Maleta Van Loan, started Maui Preserved in 2010, hoping to craft pantry items showcasing the taste of Maui-grown produce at its seasonal peak. Overcome by the island’s country charms while on honeymoon, the couple departed culinary careers and lives in their native New York City to make their home in the Upcountry Maui hamlet of Haiku.
“I wrote out a business plan on the plane [back to New York] and we moved out here six months later,” says LaBua-Keiser. Four years later, the couple has a cozy life in Haiku, a smiling, cooing baby girl and a bustling boutique food business earning considerable accolades for its flavorful, handcrafted pickles, preserves, purées, condiments and other specialty-food items, and devotion to using as much produce from its home island as possible.
Maui Preserved has a simple business model summed up in the company’s name.
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