Thursday, August 13, 2009

Spicy pickled okra



Okra: people either love it or hate it. But okra and I have a more complicated relationship. My head tells me that I don’t like okra—I find it slimy and strange. But if you present me with a plate of fried okra or a jar of pickled okra, I’ll eat it—happily and greedily.

I come late to okra, which belies my Southern heritage, I know. I only started eating fried okra a few years ago (though have since made up for much lost time) and pickled okra is an even more recent addition to my table.

A Texan friend had called me, thrilled that she had found “Talk O’ Texas” brand of pickled okra at a New York grocery store. I must have not expressed the appropriate amount of enthusiasm for her discovery because she said, “What’s wrong, don’t you like okra pickles?”

I admitted that I had never even tried them before, I was so adamantly against the vegetable. She chided me and told me that my attitude needed to change as I was missing out on a very good thing.



It wasn’t until last October that I finally took the okra-pickle plunge. I was at the annual Southern Foodways Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi and during a gumbo luncheon, jars of Tabasco spicy pickled okra were offered as gifts. None of my table mates wanted their jars and since I hate to see good food go to waste, I ended up with several jars of the pickles.

That night, after enjoying myself a bit too much, I ended up in my motel room hungry. Having only the pickles on hand, I decided that they would have to suffice. But surprisingly, I found them more than adequate—I actually enjoyed eating them and was thankful that I had more than one jar as I learned that I my friend was correct—pickled okra is indeed a very good thing.

Okra pickles are especially refreshing right now. Cold and crisp, I like to toss them into salads, dip them in hummus or use as a garnish in a glass of vegetable juice. There are still slight texture issues—yes, that’s a slight hint of softness in the center of each pod—but I find that the tang of the vinegar and fire of the chiles used in the brine make up for what I normally find unappealing.

And if you see red okra, definitely grab some. It’s a bit drier than the green okra and makes for an especially fine pickle—plus it turns the brine a rosy shade.



I’m not going to chide you if you don’t like okra—I realize opinions on it are heated. But no matter how you feel, do yourself a favor and at least try these spicy okra pickles. Who knows, you might even change your mind.

Spicy pickled okra
2 pounds okra, stems trimmed
8 garlic cloves
1 cup fresh dill
4 serrano chiles, stem removed 4
2 teaspoons chile flakes
2 teaspoons cumin seed
4 teaspoons salt
3 cups apple cider vinegar

Evenly divide between four sterilized pint-sized jars the okra, dill, Serrano chiles and garlic cloves.

Bring the vinegar and spices to a boil and pour into the jars. Fill up the rest of the jar with water.

Let cool (about half an hour) and then cover and refrigerate.

Will be ready in a day and will keep in the refrigerator for a few months, though they probably won't last that long.

Note: If you live in New York, I bought my red okra from Yuno Farms, which is at different Greenmarkets throughout the week: Union Square on Mondays; Dag Hammarskjold on Wednesdays, and West Village on Saturdays.

Speaking of farmers markets, Serious Eats has produced a beautiful short film about small farmer Rick Bishop of Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, which includes short interviews with people such as chefs Dan Barber, Alex Guarneschell and Tom Valenti, and bloggers such as Cathy Erway and myself talking about why we love the farmers market.

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59 comments:

Nicole said...

I love love LOVE pickled okra!! Haven't tried pickling it myself, but I'm going to give it a try next time I see some nice looking fresh okra. Thanks for sharing!

bluejeangourmet said...

oh how I love pickled okra--they are my surely-better-for-me-than-chips sandwich accompaniment of choice.

I'm so glad you posted this because I've been wanting to make my own instead of begging jars from my mother-in-law (who, incidentally, makes the lightest, crispest, most addictive fried okra that might even convert you--I'm working on perfecting her method!)

yay Lisa!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,

I just had my last serving of Tex-Mex squash casserole for lunch. It was yummy!

I too love pickled okra and have a jar of “Taste O’ Texas” (hot) in my pantry/fridge at all times. I've never tried it with humus, though. That sounds interesting. Can't wait to try pickling my own.

Hope the fam is doing well. Thanks again for another excellent post.

Texann

Anonymous said...

I have yet to try pickled okra, but I sure do love Creole okra - kind of like gumbo but with less roux and more tomatoes, a bit on the soupy side.

Found your blog to be one of the best recipe blogs I've seen. I'm a native Texan in Richmond who grew up on practically all the foods you talk about here and Im having a grand time reading your posts - so many memories!

I have a friend in KY who likes to tease me about the different kinds of barbecue and we often joke about how we'll start a new War Between the States if we're not careful...I was grinning so big over reading your post on your pecan pie. What is it about grandmothers taht makes pie so wonderful?? Being prejudiced I happen to think my Granny's pie was the best (she just recently passed away) but that bias is because my family hails from Seguin where the best pecans are grown.

Bookmarked for later reading and use...

Sharon F

Charli said...

I recently moved away from Texas and overstuffed myself on Tx foods before I left. Okra (simply sauteed in butter-my fav way to have it) was actually the very first southern food I found myself homesick for.

For some reason pickled okra has always scared me away though (no clue why), but my aunt sent me with some when I left. This might just be my motivation to try it soon :)

Tommy said...

Never tried these before, but since I see them more often in my local supermarket no reason not to try this recipe.
I've only used okra in gumbo so now I can be a groundbreaker with my local Toronto foodie pals.

You need to put that cookbook together soon Lisa.

jim eikner said...

Sorry but fuzz and slime are not characteristics I generally look for in my vegetables. I don't think it was by accident that the pods in the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers resembled giant okra. You can have my portion...

laura said...

I miss Taste O' Texas okra so much! I can't find them anywhere in Southern California. Luckily I'm getting a quick Texas fix at the end of the month, so I'll grab a jar then. Until Texas, I'll have to give your recipe a shot. I've yet to convince my husband of the virtues of pickled okra; maybe this will do the trick.

Anonymous said...

One quick question - I probably looked right at it and refused to see it, but was wondering if you've had a post on fajitas or do you plan to have one? I remember eating these down in the Valley (Harlingen/Brownsville) when I was young and the US had no notion of what fajitas were - they were just street food on the border in the 70s. Then Ninfa opened her restaurant and the rest is history.

Homemade chicken fried steak is always the best I think, the restaurant The Black Eyed Pea (not sure if its only Houston based) serves a pretty decent CFS. They also have the best green beans Ive ever eaten. Also, if youre ever up around Marble Falls, I recommend the Bluebonnet Cafe. Good homestyle cooking there. And Cooper's in Llano makes AWESOME barbecue.

Best,
Sharon F

Whitney said...

I love fried okra but I haven't ever had it pickled. I will have to try this pronto.

Anonymous said...

OMG! You must be reading my mind. I've been playing with pickling okra for a week or two now and thought no one did it anymore. I keep getting the stuff from the CSA and there's only so much fried and grilled okra I can eat. I've been using the recipe out of Tom Perini's cookbook and its very similar to yours except for the chili flakes and cumin. I was surprised at how easy it is and how good the results are. Thanks for keeping our Texas cooking traditions alive!

Gabrielaskitchen said...

Love it! Girl, I'm all about the Okra! You scored these at the Greenmarket (fresh) and pickled them...yum. I know what's going on my Saturday morning shopping list.

denise said...

I've never seen red okra. I wonder if I will be able to find it here in California... I love most pickles, so I'll happily try making some pickled okra. Jen at Modern Beet recently made an Indian okra dish. I haven't tried it yet, but it looked very good. Thanks for the recipe!

~Molly~ said...

Oh so timely! We are going to an Okra Festival on Saturday!! Its in Pritchett between Gilmer and Big Sandy if you need to know, lol. I plan to buy lots and lots of okra and this will be perfect to help me use it up.

Molly

Vidya said...

Oh dear, okra...I too have a few issues with it's slimy texture and slippery seeds. My Indian parents slice it thinly and stir fry it with yoghurt, oil and a few spices. Sometimes it's enough to combat the sliminess, but I often still have issues getting it down. From my trips to India, I've discovered that the okra there is naturally a lot drier because of the climate, so that is actually quite pleasant to eat.

Cheri (aka "The Mom Lady") said...

Oh I just HAD to send this to a friend of mine who considers okra the "veg of the devil" (and he's a minister, hee,hee). He's from NY and lives in Texas making it doubly delicious to rib him about it.

heidigoseek said...

okra from our garden has given us fried, stewed, okra soup and gumbo. not that we're getting tired of it, but this post came at the perfect time. busch gardens with the kiddos tomorrow. pickled okra the next. yum...

Heather B said...

I love okra. Fried or pickled...either is my favorite! I grew up in TX eating a ton of it, mainly from my grandpa's garden. I made my first batch of pickled this summer...will have to give this version a try! I doubt it lasts long in my fridge either!

Elizabeth said...

Lisa,

I am so glad that Oxford seduced you into trying and loving pickled okra. I love it all ways, stewed, fried, and pickled...pitch-perfect garnish for a weekend bloody. But the most exceptional okra I ever saw was from a woman who makes be-jeweled christmas ornaments and jewelery out of drying her summer crop. I'll hook you up with 1-2 if you are interested!
Great Post!

deceiverofmen said...

Yay! I've been waiting for this post!

Now where's the queso flameado post? ;)

say, do you think a lazy person like myself could make it like ice box pickles and skip the sterilized jars?

dibear said...

I wish you had posted this a month ago, as I have been putting okra in my freezer for over a month now. I'm an ex-Texas city girl now living in the country with a wonderful garden and growing my own Okra. I'll have to look for seeds for the red variety. I'll definitely be making your recipe. I love your blog. :)

ToyLady said...

I adore okra, but I have to admit, with my northern upbringing, I'd never even heard of pickling it until right this minute.

Interesting. . . .who knew?

lisa said...

I do like okra, and these pickles sound fantastic with the serranos! Have to try them.

Chl said...

Not a fan of okra. Too fuzzy and slimy. I have tried it several times but I just can't get around it. I do wonder if this same technique could not be applied to green beans. One of my husbands aunts makes spicy pickled green beens that are just fabulous.

tbsamsel said...

My wife will like this.. she wants to pickle okra...

(I found a Moroccan okra/tomato salad recipe last week and made it. I was quite good.)

Fredericka said...

I love okra and have been pickling it for decades. A friend from Okinawa taught me to fix it sans slime. Bring water to a boil, drop whole (don't trim the ends off) okra in, boil about 40-45 seconds, pour water off & slop some soy sauce over the okra. It is so crisp & not at all slimy. You could add a dab of butter if you just have to. I've been buying the red okra this summer at a local (Brenham) farmers' market. It has a maroon-ish tinge & I was just sure it was developed by A & M, like those Aggie carrots! I've only pickled the green, but will buy some red tomorrow at the market. Meanwhile, I coming down off an Austin College "high" - weekend in Fredericksburg with 5 ADX alums - what a time we had! Thanks Lisa!

Lynn said...

A question for Lisa, or anyone else. I'm thinking about making these pickles, and doing some green beans while I'm at it (both will be delish in my next bloody), and then canning the lot. Does the pickling liquid have to be hot? I'd like a crisp pickle when all is said and done, and it will have to endure the boiling to seal the jar -- anyone have advice about ways to keep the vegetables crisp? Also, last time I pickled green beans, I used a hot red Thai chili, and that was a great flavor, too. I'm looking forward to trying serrano this time.

Lynn, Oxford MS

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Nicole—Isn’t it the best? And it’s so easy to pickle, too!


Bluejeangourmet—Oh, I don’t need any converting for fried okra—I already love it!

Texann—It’s surprisingly delicious—give it a try! And I can’t tell you how pleased I am that y’all love the squash casserole.

Sharon—I agree, the topic of barbecue must be approached with tact and grace when you’re talking to those with dissenting opinions!

Charli—Nope, it’s not scary at all if you like both okra and pickles.

Tommy—I know, I know! Now go impress your fellow Canadians!

Jim—It is indeed an acquired taste!

Laura—I hope it does the trick!

Sharon—I have not posted on fajitas but plan to later this year.

Whitney—It’s different, but just as good!

Anon—Yes, I am a mind reader!

Garbrielaskitchen—Okra’s in season so there’s always a ton of it at the Greenmarket.

Denise—Maybe you can find it at a farmer’s market. Y’all have everything in California so I expect someone grows red okra as well!

Molly—Have fun at Okra Fest!

Vidya—Your family’s yogurt dish sounds amazing!

Cheri—Oh, he’s not alone in that thought!

Heidigoseek—Happy to help! Have fun at Busch Gardens.

Heather B. –Nope, these do indeed go fast!

Elizabeth—Seriously? Wow, I have to see this jewelry!

Deceiverofmen—Queso flameado is on the list! And I reckon you could skip the sterilization, just eat them fast!

Dibear—Good luck finding seeds—it’s so pretty!

ToyLady—I do believe that you can pickle just about anything!

Lisa—Thanks! Enjoy!

Chi—Yes, you could apply this technique to green beans, if you prefer.

TBSamsel—Oh, good—happy to help!

Fredericka—Thanks for the tip! And that’s too funny about A&M—I wouldn’t’ be surprised if that were the case!

Lynn—That’s a good question! I don’t boil the jars to seal them (because I eat them immediately), but perhaps if you’re sealing them for longtime storage, you wouldn’t have to heat the liquid pre-boiling.

Anonymous said...

My heart actually beats faster when
I see that you have posted a new article. As a retired teacher I am
now able to cruise the internet at
my leisure and your articles are dear to my heart as a Texas woman
raised in the 60's by a mom and dad
with a great garden and a love for good food.

Some of my daughter's fondest memories are of her summers in Marfa, Texas eating the great dishes my mother fixed from her
1 1/2 acre garden and the Mexican food of that region (flat inchiladas w an egg, green chili burritos, and cornmeal battered chili rellenos). So much so that
we will return to Marfa in September for her wedding.

Although we now ranch in south Texas (my husbands home), my daughter and I will forever feel the pull of west Texas and your
articles add to that pull.

HoustonGurly said...

I recently did a post on pickled okra, too! I guess great minds think alike.

I've never seen red okra... That was totally new for me and I've been eating okra my whole life!

I'm not so sure about not canning the okra, though... I like to be able to put some away for months later when I really get a craving for them. :)

Kimberly said...

Love me some pickled okra! Discovered it when I was little, and remembered it when I was pregnant!

Mark Scarbrough said...

Not like okra?!?! It'd make my ancestors quiver in their boots. I remember growing the stuff in the backyard when I was a kid, going out every day to pick the bugs off it. We didn't even know we were organic. We just thought we were frugal.

Love the pickled okra. Reminds me of my grandmother, her hair plastered to her head with sweat as she canned in the dead of summer.

Kathleen said...

I LOOOOOOOVE pickled okra. I haven't had since I left Texas 11 years ago. Sometimes living in new england really sucks! Thanks for this info. Will DEFINITELY put it to use!

Farmer Jen said...

I am not an okra fan. In fact, I laughed out loud when I read the comment about okra resembling the pod people in the original version of the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers. That movie scared me as a kid and okra kind of scares me as an adult. Slimy pod people. However, when I lived in Texas, I did enjoy frittered okra as long as it was cut in small pieces and very crispy. I have never tried pickled okra. Not sure I am brave enough.

tejasjeff said...

Love it in my Bloody Marys.

Mary said...

Lisa,
Are chili flakes the same as crushed red pepper?

And I had a question about boiling in a water bath for long term keeping. Wonder what would happen if the liquid was hot when the jars were lowered into the water. So far my experience has only been with room temperature liquids.

I have used alum dissolved in water to soak cucumber slices overnight to keep pickles crisp before processsing.

This is a definite on my list to try as while we have quite a few brands available locally, none have really impressed me.

Angie McGowan said...

That looks so delicious! I love okra any way I can get it, even boiled.

Rita said...

I'm a Texan living in China and I love your blog!!!! I'm wondering if you're talking about the pickled okra that is made in my hometown, San Angelo. It's "Talk O' Texas" not "Taste O' Texas". Oh - how I miss it!

Olivia said...

I'm never quite sure about okra, but you can pickle and chili anything and I'll try it. My mother used to slice okra and fry it crispy with salt, garlic, onion, and chili. Got rid of the sliminess and made for a truly mouthwatering experience, goes a treat with rice.

Marjorie said...

It has been years since I last ate okra my daughter had a Brazilian friend who taught her how to make a vegetarian stew with okra. It was delicious but a little slimy.

I will be spending some time in Texas this winter and I will look for the pickled variety. I never would of thought it could be pickled- lack of imagination I guess.I love your picture I didn't realize there was a red variety.

I have lived in Maine almost 11 years and have never seen okra in the markets here. I am sure Whole foods in Portland, ME would possibly have some. I will check it out the next time I'm there.

tbsamsel said...

I found pickled okra in a Lebanese/Palestinian grocery on Saturday. Tomul Bamiya, it's called. (Bamiya is okra).

I didn't buy any because it was in a huge (half-gallon?) jar. Buying that much of anything can be chancy.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--What wonderful memories--thank you for sharing! And I could go for a green chili burrito right about now!

HoustonGurly--I need to master that skill!

Kimberly--And that's a perfect time to rediscover it!

Mark Scarbrough--Yep, canning can be hot business but such a pleasure to have this bounty in the dead of winter.

Kathleen--Enjoy!

Farmer Jen--You can stick to the fried, that's cool with me!

TejasJeff-Yes, will have to try that!

Mary--Yes they are. If you're going to boil for long-time use, I wouldn't preheat the vinegar.

Angie--You're a true okra lover!

Rita--Yes I am--thank you for the correction!

Olivia--I agree--I'll eat anything pickled. And I'll have to try it your mother's way--sounds good!

Marjorie--That's strange you've never seen okra. I bet WF will have it.

TBSamsel--A half gallon? That is huge!

Kate Arrowsmith said...

Thanks so much for the post, and so timely with the harvest seasons here in Central Texas! I have been up to my ears in okra the past two weeks with more on its way.

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

These look gorgeous Lisa! I'd never heard of red okra before!

Indian As Apple Pie said...

I've just started visiting this site and I've got to say LOVE the Okra posting. I was just going to put up mine for Okra Indian style on my blog. But, ate it so fast that I couldn't even take pictures! Can you believe my favorite veg. growing up was Okra. I remember picking it at my grandmother's house in Chandighar, India. I have tips on avoiding the sliminess. I'll try your recipe if you try mine! I'll post over the next week! -Anupy

Spike said...

Love okra in chili. After having and loving Rick's Picks Smokra here in NYC, I've tried pickling it myself a few times but it's never as good - I can't seem to keep it crunchy and a little too slimy. Still tastes nice, but would love any any tips on counteracting those two problems.

Lisa - great blog. Found it randomly looking up "breakfast tacos in NYC." I've been here for 12 years (via Houston) and haven't stumbled upon any breakfast tacos yet. Thinking of chucking my job and opening my own stand!

FoodTravelDiva said...

I've always been a fan of okras in any form (except raw). Never had pickled ones though, but I bet they're great! I totally enjoyed your post. Thanks for the recipe!

heidigoseek said...

made these the other day and they are delish! it was a great way to use up some more of the okra from the garden. they weren't all small okra, so i improvised and used the larger ones, too and put them in quart jars. still yummy. what i'm wondering is, is there any way to add more okra to the brine once the jar is empty? i'm thinking not, but have you ever tried this? let me know. thanks.

Jam said...

ah, I forgot all about these. I love pickled okra. I'm making some this weekend after the farmers' market. Thanks for the reminder.

KATE! binns said...

Thank you for this blog! I just moved to Texas (Rio Grande Valley) from Vermont and I'm having food culture shock. Your blog gives me hope that I will find good local foods here.. somewhere!

Lyn said...

When my aunt lived in Germany we sent care packages made up of Cheetos, Rotel, and Taste O Texas picked okra!

And it is funny to hear you say "okra pickles" I have never heard them called that, born and raised Texan, but my 8 year old calls them that. All the time. And boy we better have some okra pickles we he opens the fridge!

Marjorie said...

Lisa, I thought you might be interested in acquiring the July 2009 #121 SAVEUR magazine. It is a special collector's edition called "The Texas Issue".

It really is wonderful, there are numerous recipes including one for Chicken Fried Steak, and numerous sources for finding ingredients, favorite food items including, pickled okra, top restaurants, and great stories, etc.

I had forgotten that I had bought the magazine while in the airport waiting to fly to San Antonio last july.

You can order back issues if you can't find it. Enjoy!

The Greasy Spoon said...

Hi Lisa

I liked your post on Okra. Okra is a strange vegetable isn't it? I'm not entirely convinced if I like it that much. I suppose the secret is to undercook it- to avoid the slime factor.

We've just got back from Morocco, and I was surprised to see that they use okra in tagines.

Best wishes

Luke aka The Greasy Spoon

Ms B said...

All right -- inspired by your post, we made three pint jars of okra pickles over the weekend. We found ourselves with one question -- should the added water be hot, cold, or somewhere in between? We went with hot. We can hardly wait to try them!

We also made pickled jalapenos from the recipe on David Lebovitz's site (except that we sliced them instead of pickling them whole -- better for nachos!). We will let you know how all the pickles turn out!

Ms B

MyLittleHappyPlace said...

Hi Lisa!
I just found your blog as I Googled images for "migas." I too, am a homesick Texan - we live in Brazil - and I yearn for my wonderful, Texas comida EVERY DAY!
I'm so glad I found you - and yes, my mouth is watering over those spicy, pickled okra!

Anonymous said...

On the pickled okra recipe, it says put okra in jars, add brine, fill with water. So, do you fill it halrways with brine and the rest water? Or? How much brine and how much water, in other words, per jar. We pronounced okra: "okrie" ...growing up in Ft. Bend Co. Texas

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--About 3/4 cup of brine per pint jar, the rest of the jar with water.

Sara said...

My sister brought me Rick's Pick's smoked hot pickled okra a while back from Brooklyn. It was funny because neither of us eat okra, but I was shocked to find I loved it! And I'm really glad to have found your recipe, it's otherwise going to get expensive.

[æʃliː sowlis] said...

I've lived most of my life in Texas (both of my parents too) so I have grown up eating pickled and fried okra since before I can remember. Hell, that's the only reason why we ever went to Church's chicken. In fact, when I went to college in Missouri and found a jar at the local walmart (unfortunately mild) I was beyond thrilled. Only two girls (Texan and Okie) had ever heard of it, which I remember finding shocking! This was such a huge part of my childhood that it never occurred to me that it might be a regional thing XD

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