Pickled Okra: A Taste of the South

Cary, NC — Before moving to North Carolina, I can honestly say that I had never tasted okra. I didn’t know what it looked like and had heard it’s an ingredient in gumbo. That’s all I knew about it.

Okra is a very Southern vegetable as it does not grow in the north because it really likes our hot, humid summers south of the Mason Dixon line.

Fusion Cooking & Okra’s History

Recently I had my eyes opened to pickled okra as an accompaniment to a charcuterie platter of all things. But it makes sense. Italians add pickled peppers (pepperoncini anyone?) and Cornichon (baby pickles) so why not okra? After all, fusion cooking is in right?

While it looks like a ridged pepper, okra belongs to the same family as hibiscus and cotton, and likely came to the U.S. from Africa more than three centuries ago. Jason, a local produce farmer, told me last week at the Cary Downtown Farmers Market that it was related to hibiscus. The pods grow fast and apparently, you have to pick them fast or they become overly big, and then not so tasty.

For this recipe, I say the smaller the better. Smaller pods also fit more easily into pint jars, which is the ideal size for canning. Yup, I tried my hand at canning another item, and the results were delicious. While many people think of okra as a slippery, even slimey veggie, this is the exact opposite. Crunchy and tart. Enjoy!

Not only is this recipe easy, but also very fast. Your friends will be thinking you’ve truly become a Southerner if you share this snack with them. Add it to a charcuterie platter and serve with Pinot Grigio to be really fancy.

What You Need

A sample of Pickled Okra.

  • 4 glass pint canning jars (You’ll need to sterilize them in boiling water for 10 minutes before getting started)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds of okra (Make sure they are no more than 3-4″ in length. If too long, they won’t pack into the jars)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 lemon sliced into 4 thick slices
  • 2 cups cider vinegar (NOT any other kind, trust me on this!)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tblsp granulated sugar
  • 4-5 Tblsp Pickling spices (I bought a premade mix, but you can also make your own using: celery seeds, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds)

Get Cooking

Jars must undergo a 10-minute processing in boiling water to be sterilized.

  1. Sterilize the jars, lids, and bands for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Set aside and drain on a clean dish towel.
  2. In a medium-sized pot, boil the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar until everything is dissolved. Reduce the heat and keep warm.
  3. Prep your okra: wash and drain in a colander. Then trim the stems to just 1/4″.
  4. Combine all the dry spices in a bowl.
  5. Place 1 lemon slice at the bottom of each jar. Divide the spices evenly between the 4 jars.
  6. Pack the okra into each of the jars, trying to alternate stem side up, and stem side down to fit the most in each jar. Okra should fit to 1/4″-1/2″ below the top of each jar.
  7. Pour the hot liquid over the okra up to the rim of each jar. Try to remove any air bubbles so that each jar is totally filled with pickling liquid and okra, no air! You can do that by running a butter knife between the okra to remove air. If the liquid level dips below the tops of the okra, just add more. You want all of the veggies to be safely below the top of the liquid levels in each jar. If you run out of liquid, just mix together some additional vinegar and water and pour it right in — no need to boil again.
  8. Wipe rims and screw on the lids, but not too tight.
  9. Submerge the jars back in the sterilizing boiling water for another 15 minutes, making sure to submerge the entire jars.
  10. Remove from the water bath and let cool on top of a dishtowel so nothing cracks!
  11. As the jars cool you will hear funny popping sounds. That is the vacuum being created when the jars cool. This vacuum allows your pickled okra to stand at room temperature for about a year without spoiling. Now tighten the jars a bit more and you are done.

The Final, Delicious Product

Pickled Okra with my homemade labels.

I hope you enjoy having a taste of the South on your table this fall and winter.

We might try this recipe for some tomatoes. Or peppers. We’ll let you know how they turn out! I’m telling you, I have gone canning crazy! ENJOY!

Story and recipe by Lindsey Chester.

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