September 8, 2010

Pickled Okra

Hello food lovers!

Leave your okraphobia behind and delve into the wonders of Pickled Okra! Great flavor, crispy texture. No 'okra slime' at all!  I've canned this recipe since mid-July because our garden is spitting out plenty of fresh tender young okra.

Many people don't know, but okra is excellent for the digestive system. Follow this link to Ravi Kochhar's "All About Okra" page where you can learn everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) about this fascinating vegetable, including many recipes. 

Okra, or "Gumbo", has its roots in Northeast Africa and it is likely that the French colonists of Louisiana introduced it to America. It is popular in the Southern United States where it is served breaded and fried, or as a component of a recipe such as soups, stews or relishes. Okra is a typical ingredient of Cajun and Creole dishes. Because it is considered too gooey, it is rarely served alone -- unless pickled!!

Okra is in the same family as cotton, hollyhocks and hibiscus. Its flowers resemble hibiscus and okra makes a nice ornamental plant in your garden as well.

Pod on right is best
While two okra plants may be enough for your family garden, we typically grow a dozen or more. Okra will grow very quickly and before you know it your plants will be over four feet tall with some varieties reaching seven or eight feet in height by the time they are fully grown.

Each plant will continue to produce numerous pods over the long growing season and by keeping the pods picked you will encourage additional production. Only 3 to 4 days are required from the time the okra flower opens until the pod reaches harvest maturity. For this reason, okra must be harvested at least every other day during the growing season. If you are not ready to eat or process them, at least cut the mature pods off the plant. Refrigerate your pods as soon as possible after harvest until you can use them!

Easier to cut than pluck!

 INGREDIENTS (for 3-5 pint jars):
3-1/2 pounds of young, tender okra pods (washed)
1 pint vinegar
1 quart water
1/3 cup of pickling salt
3-5 small hot peppers -- one per jar
3-5 cloves of garlic -- one per jar
2 teaspoons of dill seed

Pack jars tightly
Pack okra, hot pepper and garlic into each jar - should fit snugly (otherwise they will shrink and float around).

Bring vinegar, water, salt and dill seed to a boil.  Pour boiling brine into each jar, covering all okra with 1/4" head space.  Seal and process for 10 minutes in a simmering water bath (as opposed to boiling).

Remove, cool and check seals. Store in a cool, dry place. Let ripen for about 2 weeks until the flavors develop.

The recipe is super quick and easy, even for novice canners. I have heard that some people omit the hot peppers with one garlic clove in each jar.  Interestingly, people who say they generally don't like okra, love these pickled treats.  One of our long-standing customers buys up a lot of our Pickled Okra because it is the only vegetable that her daughter will eat!

Who knew Okra could taste so good? You really should put your okraphobia aside and try it!

Wishing you good digestion!

Chef Alan

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