Living in New Orleans for so many years gave me such an appreciation for this lovely vegetable but by far my favorite way of enjoying them is an okra pickle inside of a spicy Bloody Mary for Sunday Brunch.
My NOLA peeps take their Bloodies very seriously and while competing restaurants work hard to vie for the top spot in the condiment department, there’s nothing quite like the classic: two pickled green beans, a pickled okra, and a lime.
Being back in South Florida, getting okra pickles is difficult and at best considered a delicatessen as evidenced by the price tag. I find it much simpler to keep a few of these plants on hand and make them myself. Okra is a moderate to heavy producing vegetable and if managed well can provide you with continual starch for thickening soups and sauces as well as those delicious cornbread coated fried chunks that are synonymous with southern style cooking.
I love okra in the garden first because it is beautiful and even better, it’s a reliable pantry plant that will provide all summer long. Similar to hibiscus flowers in shape, the pale yellow petals and purple throated flower of the okra plant has a short life of only one day. The seed pod that develops out the flower grows quickly and in summer you will want to check these plants daily for this quick veggie..
I recommend maintaining 8-10 plants if you are planning to feed a family of four, more if you plan on canning or selling, but this amount will keep your family in okra all year. The plants should be composted once a month all summer to keep them producing properly or if you prefer, a compost tea every two weeks. They prefer well drained soil and frequent watering for optimal pod production.
Here’s a recipe for a small batch of pickled okra, it can be scaled up but I recommend reducing the salt by 1/4 as you go up in quantity.
30 young okra pods (harvested about 3-5 days post flower 3- 4 inches, tops. Young = Tender)
3 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1/2 small vidalia onion, chunked
6 sprigs of thyme
12 black peppercorns, slightly crushed
12 yellow mustard seeds, slightly crushed
1 teaspoon finely chopped oregano
1/2 teaspoon dill seed, slightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons pink salt
One quart apple cider vinegar
One cup white vinegar
I like to build these pickles right in the jar and this recipe will make three 16 oz jars
Evenly pack okra, thyme, garlic, onion, peppercorns, and mustard seeds into each of the clean, sterilized jars. (Don’t skip careful sterilization prep)
Mix all other ingredients into a glass pitcher and pour to cover vegetables up to neck of each jar. clean top of jar with a clean cloth before fitting inner lid and then loosely screw on outer lid to jar.
Place into canning rig and cover with 1 inch of water. Boil 12 minutes and remove. I like to process these just those few extra minutes to ensure tender okra. Learn more about canning techniques here.
Other great recipes to preserve okra with are:
Stewed Tomatoes and Okra – Serve with Shrimp Creole over rice.
Brown Stew Okra – A blended, caramelized onion/okra/garlic mixture perfect for thickening soups and sauces.
Hemmingway’s Bloody Mary Recipe
“To make a pitcher of Bloody Marys (any smaller amount is worthless) take a good sized pitcher and put in it as big a lump of ice as it will hold. (This to prevent too rapid melting and watering of our product.) Mix a pint of good Russian vodka and an equal amount of chilled tomato juice.
Add a tablespoon full of Worcestershire Sauce. Lea and Perrins is usual but you can use AI or any good beef-steak sauce. Stir. (with two rs) Then add a jigger of fresh squeezed lime juice. Stir. Then add small amounts of celery salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Keep on stirring and taste to see how it is doing. If you get it too powerful weaken with more tomato juice. If it lacks authority add more vodka.”
It’s a good recipe but I like to add about a 1/2 teaspoon of horseradish.
Obviously I didn’t mention here that okra is a controversial plant, similar to cilantro when it comes to its detractors, do you love it or hate it? Let me know what you think.