Okra isn't the first (or seventh) vegetable most people think to buy when they go to the farmers' market. Known primarily for its use in heavy Southern dishes and infamously for its ability to become slimy because of its natural mucilage, okra isn't flying off the stands.
The way to keep the slime factor down with okra is to cook it for a long time (like in gumbo) or a short time (like in a stir fry).
But why cook it at all? I prefer to pickle okra.
Processed this way, the okra stays crisp, tastes great and, more important, no slime. These pickles are bright, garlicky and slightly spicy. If you've never canned pickles, fear not; it's simple as long as you follow the proper procedure and use the right equipment. Okra is cheap ($3 a pound) and pickling is a great way to buy in bulk and preserve it for the winter, when you're wishing for a taste of summer. If you want to pickle only a jar or two at a time without cooking, we have you covered at the end of the recipe.
Makes: 6 pint (or 1/2 liter) jars of okra
4 cups water
4 cups cider vinegar
4 tablespoons kosher salt
2 pounds okra, top stems trimmed off
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seed
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seed
12 cloves garlic
6 dried red chilies
3 bay leaves, broken into halves
6 lemon slices, 1/4 -inch thick
6 one pint (or 1/2 -liter) glass canning jars with lids and seals (depending on manufacturer), washed
Large pot with a bottom rack insert
Sterilize the jars by bringing a large pot of water (that will cover the jars by 2 inches) to a rolling boil. Boil the empty jars and lids (not the seals) for 10 minutes; turn off heat, add the seals and keep submerged until you need to use them. Equally distribute the spices by placing 1/4 teaspoon each of the black pepper, mustard seed, and coriander seed into the jars. Add a slice of lemon, a chili, and two cloves of garlic into each jar. Pack the jars with the okra pods. In a saucepan combine the water vinegar and salt. Bring mixture to a boil and stir until the salt is dissolved. Equally distribute the hot liquid into each jar, covering the okra pods. Place the lids and gaskets or bands onto the jars and seal tightly. Place the jars (still hot) into a pot of boiling water that covers the jars by 2 inches. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully extract the jars from the water. Let the jars come to room temperature and check to see if they are sealed properly (check the directions of your jar manufacturer). Wait 24 hours before opening a jar so the okra can brine in the pickling liquid. The properly jarred okra pickles will keep for one year in a cool dark place (like a cupboard).
Tip: To make a jar of okra pickles for the refrigerator, pack one jar with a lemon slice, a chili, two cloves of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of each spice and the okra. Bring the 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil and after the salt is dissolved pour the liquid into the jar, submerging the okra. Tightly fit a lid onto the jar and let the jar come to room temperature. Place the pickles in the refrigerator and do not open for at least 24 hours to let the flavors meld. Pickles will keep for up to three weeks.