The Gods Must be Crazy – Pickled Okra with Lemon
Whatever your beliefs or views on creation, think something went a bit awry the day that Okra was invented. The long slender fingerlike veggies are not only a bit fuzzy but distinctly woodsy and of course, disturbingly slimy. Finding the silver lining in this vegetable’s quirky qualities can be challenging at best. While the specific origin of this allopolyploid is unknown, in virtually all of the far flung areas in which Okra is cultivated, the locals have found a way to weave the pods into their local cuisine in a way which harnesses the seemingly negative qualities of the vegetable to enhance traditional style dishes.
In much of the world Okra can be found slow cooked in stews and curries. The slow cooking process renders the mucus out of the vegetable and this process actually thickens the gravy or sauce of the dish. In other areas Okra is cooked whole over high heat in dry curries or stir fries, it can even be grilled until slightly charred without activating the veggie’s slime factor. Luckily for us, when we are short on time, or don’t feel like consuming all of those little suckers in the course of a weekend, canning is a great option for okra. The acid in a pickling liquid can help, not only to keep evil botulism bacteria at bay, but also to break down the plant’s mucilaginous products, ensuring an end product that is both refreshingly zingy and goo free.
This recipe is amazingly forgiving. Forget to buy garlic? – no sweat; want to add different spices? – go for it, the possibilities for flavor combinations are truly endless. Here in the South many employ hot pepper flakes to give pickled okra a piquant kick. Others, preferring a milder pickle, may use pickling spice or dill to add flavor to the pods. The pickles make a great garnish for a classy bloody mary or a cheese plate at cocktail hour.
Pickled Okra (Adapted From the Food in Jars Cookbook)
1.5 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar (5% acidity)
1.5 Cups White Wine Vinegar (5% acidity)
3 TBSP Kosher Salt
4 Lemon Rounds, About 1/4 Inch Thick
4 TBSP Pickling Spice
2 LBs Okra, Washed and Trimmed
4 Cloves garlic, Peeled
Start with four clean jars. Jars can either be cleaned and heated in your canner or, if your dish washer gets hot enough you can use this to clean the jars, check with your manufacturer to verify its capabilities. Bring vinegars and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan and stir until salt is dissolved. While the vinegar mixture heats, place lemon, garlic, and pickling spice in the bottom of the hot clean jars.
Pack okra tightly into jars, leaving a minimum of a 1/2 inch of room between the okra and the top of the jar. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the okra. Clean and dry the jar rims and place a clean lid on the jar. Twist on bands with one hand until jar starts to turn on the counter (bands should be on but not on tightly so that air can escape during processing.
Process the jars in the canner and return to a boil. Process for 10 minutes if at sea level. For 1,001 to 3,000 feet asl, add another 5 minutes to the 10 minute processing time. For 3,001 to 6,000 feet asl, add 10 minutes to the 10 minute processing time. For 6,001 to 8,000 feet asl, add another 15 minutes to the 10 minute processing time. And finally, for 8,001 to 10,000 feet asl, add an additional 20 minutes to the 10 minute processing time for a total of 30 minutes.
Remove the jars from the canner without tilting them. Let the jars dry in a cool place, without touching the lids, for 24 hours. Remove the screw bands and store in a cool and preferably dark place for up to a year.