Pickled Okra

A good pickle is all about texture. It should have a satisfying crunch as you bite into it. It should be firm and crisp. It should make your eyes light up with delight as you eat it. Which brings me to okra, the poster child of vegetables with texture issues. “Eww, it’s slimy!” Yes. Yes, okra often suffers from slipperiness. But it all depends on how you prepare it. Cooked fresh into a pickle, like this, it’s not slimy. It’s crunchy. I am convinced that okra makes the best pickles ever. The inside of an okra pod is somewhat hollow, with tender seeds, but a lot of air. These air pockets fill up with the pickling juice when you pickle the okra, and it’s a texture wonderland when you bite into them. That and okra just tastes good.

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I planted okra in the garden for the first time this year, so I now have my own steady supply. I have not found any decent looking okra at the stores, but the farmers market this time of year has plenty of beautiful fresh okra. Look for unblemished pods, and if you are using pint sized jars, no more than 4 inches long.

As for making the pickles, it couldn’t be easier. You actually pack the fresh okra into the jars with the pickling spices. Pour in pickling liquid, put lids on, and put the jars in a water bath for 15 minutes. If you are canning for shelf storage you’ll want to take the extra precautions of sterilizing the jars up front, and sterilizing the lids. But you can skip that if you just want to store them in the fridge and eat them up quickly.

  • Prep: 30 minutes
  • Cook: 25 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 4 pint jars.

You can either use the pickling spice combination recommended here, your own favorite pickling spice blend, or already packaged pickling spices. You'll need 4 tablespoons for 4 pint jars of pickles.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds of fresh okra (3 1/2 to 4 inches long)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 1/4-inch thick slices of lemon
  • 2 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

Pickling spices:

  • 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Special equipment needed:

  • 4 pint canning jars, lids, and screw bands.
  • A large (at least 16 qt) pot for canning

Method

1 Prepare for canning by sterilizing jars and lids. Put a steamer rack at the bottom of a large (16 quart) pot, and place the jars on the rack. Fill the pot with water to the rim of the jars. (Note if you don't have a level steamer rack you can put a clean dish towel at the bottom of the pot, you just don't want the jars touching the bottom of the pot or they may break from the heat.) Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 10 minutes. To sterilize the lids, place lids in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them.

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2 Place vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar, reduce heat and keep warm.

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3 While the water is heating in step one, prepare the okra and the spices. Rinse the okra and trim the stem ends to 1/4-inch.

4 Place all pickling spices in a small bowl and stir to combine.

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5 Lay out a clean towel on your counter. Use canning tongs to remove the jars from the boiling water, emptying the water from the jars. Place the hot, sterilized jars on the towel on your counter. Placing the hot jars on a towel will help prevent them from getting shocked by a cold counter surface and potentially cracking. Place a lemon slice at the bottom of each jar. Add a tablespoon of the mixed pickling spices to each jar. Place a peeled garlic clove on top of the spices and lemon.

6 Pack the okra in the jars, alternating stem-side-up and stem-side-down to allow you to pack the okra well into the jars. The top of the okra should come between an inch to 1/2 an inch from the rim of the jar.

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7 Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the jars, up to 1/4-inch from the rim of the jars. Run a thin knife between the okra and the jars to dislodge any obvious air bubbles. Okra is filled with air, so while you run the knife between the okra and the jars, air bubbles will be released from within the okra as well. If the top level of the pickling liquid lowers while you do this, just top off with more of the pickling liquid. If for any reason you don't have enough pickling liquid for all the jars, just add equal amounts of cider vinegar and water. No need to heat first, the liquid will get boiled in the hot water bath.

8 Wipe the rims with a clean damp towel. Place sterilized lids on jars. Screw on the the lids, firmly, but not too tight.

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9 Place packed jars back in the pot with water you used to sterilize the jars. The water should still be hot. Because you are putting back in full jars, rather than empty jars, some water will be displaced. Allow for 1 to 2 inches of water to cover the jars. Beyond that you may want to remove excess water. Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove to towel lined counter or to a rack (you want to avoid putting a hot jar on a cold surface, or else the jar might crack.)

10 As the jars cool, you should hear a popping sound as the vacuum created by the cooling air in the jars pulls the lid down and seals the jars. A properly sealed jar can last in a cool closet out of direct sun for about a year. If any jars do not seal, store them chilled in the refrigerator. Opened jars should last one to two months in the refrigerator.

Let sit 24 hours before eating.

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