southern hospitality ::::
You might have noticed that my consistency with posting continues but is less frequent; rather than that once or twice a week crack-the-whip posting schedule, it’s turned into a wispy tail of a kitten. It’s not that I don’t want to cook. I’ve just had so many external forces nipping into uninterrupted time to do so. And the writing — seemingly impossible these days to get a moment to myself. Food blog posting becomes secondary when one has a three hour lecture to prepare and present with a colleague to a group of residents, my two older kids trying to sleep in the toddler’s bed, all falling asleep at around 10PM the night before the early morning talk, complicated by the toddler leaking pee in the bed, resulting in a late night change of pajamas and towels over the offending part of the mattress. And a mini night terror — her screams are deafeningly shrill. And the excitement of the Cubs winning the World Series. Ugh. Time for a break in the kitchen and for wordsmithing.
The elderly woman who owned the house before us kept a very traditional home, according to the snippets of history we’ve heard. Her daughter said at the closing that her mother always made a point to have a freshly baked cake in the house with freshly cut flowers from their garden. That is a hard act to follow in this day and age, when cakes come from grocery stores and gardens are often tended to by people other than the owners of the home. This is my partial homage to the previous home owner (of almost 55 years!) and the history in these walls.
But with okra. Not cake.
It’s not that I haven’t baked a few cakes since we’ve moved in, the soft vanilla scents melding with years’ past baked goods scents left in the walls. It was, however, the okra I made for the very first recipe in my new kitchen. Not confident with the vintage though well-maintained oven along with my justified disorganization of many of my baking tools that first month, I figured warming up vinegar and sugar on a stovetop was a clean and easy foray into my new kitchen.
If you haven’t appreciated good pickled okra, you are missing out. I never was an okra fan, turned off by the gooey insides. My mother-in-law once touted it as a “miracle” vegetable to help with my gestational diabetes blood sugar control. Served soaked in water overnight alongside parboiled bitter melon, I wallowed in my restricted diet as a ravenous third trimester pregnant lady. (For more writing on my gestational diabetes journey, see my two previous posts, during and after Sky-Girl’s birth). This was not how I wanted to eat okra; I knew there was a better way. Fast forward to moving back to Georgia, I’m having dinner with friends at a local restaurant. Pickled okra is a garnish to something we ordered to share. So enamored with the okra I was, I can’t even remember what the main dish was. The pickled okra served were delicate fingers, pickled sweetly enough to not nip my tongue. And the texture? Not gooey at all. This is something I could warm up to.
I was encouraged to finally make pickled okra when one of my patients talked proudly of his windfall of gardening, okra overflowing and so good he’d eat it freshly picked and raw. So then started my quest in earnest to find pickled okra and a recipe to make my own. Some minor testing led to the recipe below, more tangy than what I first tried at the restaurant, but not too assertive either. The trick is to gently warm the vinegar, water, and sugar to dissolve completely. Salting and rinsing the okra before pickling also helps draw off some fluid. Choose dainty sized okra, for more tender (and less slimy) bites.
Here is my dose of southern hospitality. No need for a cake.
- 10 ounces raw okra, washed
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- ⅔ cup apple cider vinegar
- ⅔ cup water
- 1 teaspoon dried lavender
- 10-15 peppercorns
- 1-2 dried anise wheels
- 2 tablespoons whole coriander
- 2 teaspoons mustard seed
- 2 teaspoons dried fennel seed
- lemon slices, optional
- 1 quart glass jar to pickle okra and store in fridge
- Washing okra and trim stem ends slightly.* Put okra in a bowl, toss with salt, and allow to sit for 1 hour. Rinse.
- Warm vinegar and water to dissolve sugar. Cool slightly.
- Put the salted and rinsed okra into jar, add spices, lemon slices, and pour warmed vinegar-water mix over top. Cover and place in fridge for at least 2 days before testing. If the okra float to the top, occasionally push them down to fully immerse them in the vinegar mix. Keep refrigerated. Pickled okra will last for weeks in the fridge.
- UPDATE: I've also parboiled for 1 minute and immediately cold shocked trimmed, salted okra before immersing in the vinegar mix. It makes the okra a lovely bright green.