When okra is in season, you might begin to dread the overwhelming mountains of tender green pods that can be produced from even the smallest garden plots. What can you do with this bountiful but time-sensitive harvest that lasts only a couple days? From freezing to pickling, there are plenty of viable solutions to get your okra out of the refrigerator and help you preserve it to enjoy throughout the year.
1. Frozen Okra
Freezing your okra is one of the most efficient and successful long-term storage methods, assuming you have the freezer space or a spare deep freezer. Before freezing your okra, wash the pods, trim any excess stems, and discard any old or overly large pods. Keep an eye out for pods with age-related damage, including soft spots or brown discoloration. The best frozen okra comes from using the freshest okra possible.
Working in batches, blanch the okra pods in a large covered pot of boiling water for three to four minutes, depending on the size of the pods. Immediately transfer the blanched pods into an ice bath to stop the cooking process, and keep them there for about five minutes or until the pods are cold throughout. Once cool, remove the okra and drain. Finally place the pods in a plastic freezer bag and squeeze out as much air as possible.
Label the bag of okra with the current date and place in your freezer. Frozen okra will maintain peak freshness for seven to eight months in a conventional freezer and slightly longer in a deep freeze.
2. Okra Chips
Okra can be dried as a tasty snack or for use in soups or stews. Simply wash your okra pods, pat them dry and cut your okra into rounds of an even thickness. Place the okra slices in your dehydrator so that they’re not overlapping or overcrowded. Set the dehydrator to a temperature around 140 degrees F, and heat until completely dried and brittle. The exact amount of time depends on your local climate, the thickness of your slices and variety of okra used.
If you are planning to make the dried okra slices for a snacking, consider seasoning the slices before dehydrating. Get creative: Okra chips work well with a range of flavors from Cajun blends and spicy pepper mixes to a variety of Asian influenced flavors. Okra dried for soups and stews does not need to be seasoned; just add the okra directly to the pot and let them gently rehydrate while the soup simmers.
3. Refrigerator Okra Pickles
Perhaps the most common okra storage techniques are traditional pressure canning and pickling. While these methods are very successful at preserving your okra, they unfortunately require a significant amount time in the kitchen. If you crave pickled okra but don’t want to invest the time and effort, you should consider refrigerator pickled okra. While not shelf-stable, the refrigerator pickling technique offers a simple and fast method to make flavorful pickled okra right at home with few pieces of special equipment, aside from a few canning jars and your icebox.
A basic refrigerator pickle recipe will have you wash and trim your okra, pack it into clean mason jars, and then add flavoring agents, 1 cup of salt brine and 1 cup white vinegar. (You can look for more detailed refrigerator okra pickle instructions and recipes online.) Armed with the basic recipe, you can change things up by swapping out white vinegar for more flavorful apple cider or champagne vinegars. Alternatively you can change the seasoning to make bread-and-butter okra or spicy okra featuring fresh jalapeños slices right from your garden.
Get more tips for using up your harvest:
About the Author: Kevin Fogle is a South Carolina-based freelance writer and photographer who grows heirloom okra in his urban front-yard garden.