The Okra Pickleback

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At some point last summer my husband convinced me that pickling and canning okra was a good idea. He didn’t have to work very hard to convince me as I was fully in the midst of my Preserve All The Things state of mind, (c) summer 2013. I even consented to canning pickled carrots, which I believe to be the only vegetable I prefer raw. And by prefer, I mean I’ll eat around it in Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

Long story short, we were on a pickling binge and okra got in on the madness. We used an Alton Brown recipe, which calls for rice wine vinegar instead of the standard white or apple cider.

Man, oh, man. Those okras were good. Like, day dream about them on your commute home, good. I think it has something to do with the lower acidity of rice wine vinegar, as compared to white or apple cider vinegar, but it could also just be the okras themselves.

Before pickled okra, I didn’t have all that much experience with the stuff, but now it takes up a good bit of my summer produce purchases. Aside from pickling, okra works great in all kinds of stews and roasting it was this summer’s big okra breakthrough. Seriously. Roast yourself up a heap of okra and tell me you didn’t inhale it. I dare you.

Okras!

I know a lot of people in this world aren’t on the okra wagon with me (usually due to the slime factor) and that’s okay. More for me. But, I will say that pickling and roasting take care of the slime quite nicely and you’re left with delicious, delicious pods full of flavor.

While okra is in season, I try to take full advantage and put up several pints to get us through to the next season. I am well-known for showing up with a jar in hand, ready to force my unsuspecting host to appreciate the greatness that is the pickled okra pod. So I put up quite a few more pints than is absolutely necessary…

Pickle fixins


Pickled Okra

(taken directly from Alton Brown, without shame because it is so good.)

Special equipment needed:

  • Canning jar lifter
  • Wide mouth funnel
  • Wide mouth pint-size canning jars, lids, and rings
  • Pot for boiling water bath

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. okra, small to medium size
  • 2 cups rice wine vinegar*
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 4 dried chiles, split in half
  • About 12 sprigs of fresh dill
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. whole peppercorns

*Rice wine vinegar can cost a pretty penny from your average supermarket. I have found that prices are much more reasonable at local Asian and Middle Eastern supermarkets. Same goes for ginger, spices, and legumes. If you’re counting pennies, it pays to shop around!

N.B.: Safe canning practices come with a lot of rules and guidelines to follow. I highly recommend consulting the most hallowed Ball Book for a primer on canning in general. Marisa at Food in Jars has a great round up of Canning 101 posts, too. I spent a lot of time in the library with various cookbooks when I first started canning. Safety should be the highest priority when dealing with any sort of food preservation, so always follow the rule: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

N.B. No. 2: When canning pickles, you need to be careful to always follow the brine recipe to the letter. Messing about with acidity levels is never a good idea when preserving for the long haul. So, if you don’t have rice wine vinegar, don’t use this recipe. You can switch up the flavoring agents without much concern, but keep the vinegar/water/salt combo precise! I used one fresh serrano chile instead of dried in this latest batch of pints, so we’ll see how it turns out.

Jar prep

Procedure:

  • Prep your jars, lids, rings, and other accoutrements that need sterilizing.
  • Wash and trim the okra pods.
  • Once your jars are hot and ready, place in the bottom: 1 chile, 1 clove of garlic, 3 sprigs of dill, 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds, and 1/4 tsp of peppercorns.
  • Add the okra a couple at a time, some pointing up and some pointing down, until the jar is packed tight. Then, if you’re like me, try to shove at least three more little ones in just to be sure.
  • Combine the rice wine vinegar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  • After the brine comes to a boil, pour it carefully over the okra. Leave 1/2 inch headroom.
  • Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp paper towel.

Packed jars

  • (At this point, jars can be lidded and ringed and put into the refrigerator. No need to process if you don’t need them to be shelf stable.)
  • Place lids and rings on each jar and lower into the water bath. Process at a boil for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the water bath and leave on the counter, undisturbed, until cool. Remove rings for storage and refrigerate any jars that haven’t sealed. Make sure to label each jar with the contents and date of production!
  • The pickles will be tastiest if left to their own devices for at least a week, whether or not you go through the canning process.

The Okra Pickleback

While not exactly your average cocktail, I truly feel that the Pickleback is good enough to warrant your immediate attention. Especially when it involves okra pickle juice!

The ingredients list couldn’t be simpler. In separate shot glasses:

  • One shot of palatable whiskey or bourbon. I like Benchmark No. 8.
  • One shot of okra pickle juice, cold.

Shoot the whiskey first and chase it with the pickle juice. Savor. Grab an okra pickle out of the jar if you need a snack.

The okra pickleback

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