By Howard Pousner
Liana Krissoff grew up the daughter of parents who magically transformed bushel baskets of fruit and vegetables from their Virginia garden into shelves heaving with colorful canning jars and chest freezers filled to the brim.
She thought it wise to simply stay out of the way, and all that big kitchen production led her to think of canning as “something that took over your life.”
Yet years later, when Krissoff was living on her own in New York, she began to miss some of the flavors of her youth. Armed with some Pink Lady apples she’d picked at an orchard, she called and asked her mom how to make applesauce.
Krissoff’s initial canning success — nobody died, she noted wryly — led her to an extended search for an easy-to-follow, up-to-date canning book with tasty-sounding recipes. When she couldn’t find anything of the sort, the freelance tester, editor and writer (“Secrets of Slow Cooking” and “Hot Drinks for Cold Nights”) decided to whip up her own.
The Athens author, 37, will speak about that just-published book, “Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95), on Sunday at the AJC Decatur Book Festival.
Q: Your book is aimed at a new generation of canners. What do you think is fueling their interest?
A: I think it has a lot to do with just wanting to know where your food comes from … making sure it’s the best it can be. Of course, it also has to do with the whole impulse to eat locally — getting as much as you can in season, when it’s at its best, and preserving it so you can eat it throughout the year, and not relying so much on a huge food production infrastructure. And, then, it tastes good.
Also, I think people are wanting to spend more time in the kitchen. Being in the kitchen on the weekend and doing something productive, seeing all those jars lined up at the end of the day, it’s satisfying.
Q: Some folks continue to have fears about food spoiling. Need they worry?
A: As long as you follow the … instructions, which are laid out in a detailed way for the newer canner, it’s fine. There’s not that much risk. You just have to read carefully and do things the right way. All the recipes are with high-acid foods, and the acid is what preserves the food. As long as you’ve got that right, the rest is easy.
Q: In your introduction you joke how canning used to be the pastime of survivalist types, people who would put up acres worth of produce at a time, expecting some version of a Y2K meltdown at any minute. Guessing that’s not your approach?
A: It doesn’t have to be like that, I finally realized. You just can a few jars of something and stash it away. Canning doesn’t have to be a lifestyle choice. If it’s fun, I keep doing it. It’s even better if you have friends help you.
Q: The book is dedicated to your 4-year-old daughter, Thalia. Is she learning to be your canning assistant?
A: She does help. She does a lot of chopping and taste testing. And I think she’s starting to understand how it all works. She knows that there’s jam at the end of it — that’s the important thing for her.
Liana Krissoff discusses “Canning for a New Generation”
2-3 p.m. Sunday. Festival events are free. Cooks Warehouse stage of AJC Decatur Book Festival. Various locations in and around Decatur Square in downtown Decatur. 10 a.m.-6:15 p.m. Saturday, noon-5:45 p.m. Sunday. 404-471-5769, www.decaturbookfestival.com.