Ahhhh okra, the fruit of the South!
Not far from where we live in S.C. there's even a small town that holds a festival each year honoring this vegetable with its Annual Irmo Okra Strut. We love our okry south of the Mason Dixon Line (if you're a true Southerner, that's how you say it, Oak-ree!). Of course, the BEST way to eat okra is fresh out of the garden, sliced and rolled in cornmeal and fried (another Southern favorite, FRIED... fried anything!)
I recently scored a half bushel basket of okra from the farmers market and enjoyed a "mess" of fried okra (in the South, a "mess" of anything is enough for a meal for however many people you need to feed... it's a Southern measure of volume, a "mess") I remember when I was growing up sometimes Daddy would pick okra and if there wasn't enough for a "mess" for supper, Mama would slice up some green tomatoes and add to the okra so there WOULD be enough for a "mess." Yummy!!! Okra and green tomatoes, chopped, rolled in cornmeal, and fried in Mama's well-seasoned cast-iron frying pan... and served alongside a fresh sliced ripe tomato... Mmmmm... makes you wanna slap your grandma!
With my plethora of okra, I thought I'd make another Southern favorite... okra pickles... here's what I did...
I chose the smallest okra pods for my pickles, washed them and sliced the stem ends off (taking care not to slice too deep, don't want to open the seed end and let out all the innards)
I prepared my pint jars by sterilizing them in a pan of water set on two stove eyes, heating them to boiling.
I simmered my lids and rings, keeping them hot until I was ready for them.
In a large stainless steel saucepan, I combined 3 cups of water
3 cups white vinegar
1/3 cup canning and pickling salt
And 2 teaspoons dried dill weed (you could use dill seed or fresh dill if you want, I happened to have dill weed on hand)
I brought the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt. I reduced the heat and kept the mixture hot until I was ready to use it.
I packed the okra pods into the hot jars to within a generous half inch of the top of the jar.
I added to each jar... one clove of garlic and half a small hot red pepper (I used chili peppers)... stems removed, halved lengthwise and seeded (and may I UNDERLINE the importance of wearing rubber gloves while cutting or seeding hot peppers!!! Even if you think "Hey I only need two or three, I'll just do them without fooling with getting the gloves out... ask me how I know!... I had burny hands all afternoon!)
Ladle the hot pickling liquid into the jar to cover okra, leaving half inch headspace. Remove air bubbles (a butter knife run down the inside of the jar between the okra and the jar will work nicely) and adjust headspace if necessary by adding more pickling liquid.
I wiped the rims, centered the lids onto the jars and screwed the bands down to a fingertip tightness.
I processed the jars in a boiling water bath (place jars in the canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water, bring to a boil) processing them for 15 minutes.
After the processing, I removed the jars using my jar lifter (a handy dandy gadget that saves hands!) and placed them on a folded dish towel on the counter to cool... and to listen for the PING! of each successfully sealed jar!
Okry Pickles!!! Makes a delicious addition to a relish tray... and a nice change from your average dill pickle!