Ohh, It’s Okra

September 26, 2012

The good and bad thing about a CSA is you’re not really sure what vegetables you’re going to get. A lot has to do with what the farm has decided to plant but you also have weather patterns, plant diseases, and other variables that can affect what shows up each week. Among the vegetables I have little to no experience with are kohlrabi – a root vegetable that looks a little like a purple or pale green alien that, when sliced, is apparently good in salads – and collard greens – not so much an unusual vegetable, just one I don’t have much experience with.

The past couple of years we’ve had several pounds of okra included in our farm share. Last year I tried it in gumbo – meh, it was okay – and in an Indian curry – again, not great, and in a stir-fry. As you can tell my general reaction to okra is lukewarm and unenthusiastic. Knowing that we would likely get more in our farm share this year I started doing some research.

One thing I heard about was crispy okra chips – roasting okra in the oven to bake out the inherent sliminess – a big plus. Another recipe that kept coming up was pickled okra, both mild and spicy varieties. I spoke with a few people who had them and most of them raved about how delicious they were.

Okra Chips

Let’s start with the first recipe. From all my research an okra “chip” is really the whole vegetable, not thin slices like a potato chip. You bake the okra in a moderate oven with a little olive oil and spices and all the moisture bakes out of them and you’re left with a crunchy snack. I followed this recipe which seemed fairly straight forward and easy. I used the older batch of okra that had been sitting in my fridge for a couple of weeks. If I was going to dry them out, I might as well use the older, less pristine veggies.

The recipe said to bake them for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. After 30 minutes they had barely changed so I left them for another 30 minutes and still they were quite moist, not close to drying out. I boosted the temperature to 350 degrees and left them for another 30 minutes and only then did they start to become crisp. By the time I removed them they looked like over-sized vanilla bean pods. They were crisp and there was no hint of sliminess but they also taste burnt. I would rate that attempt a fail.

Dried, shriveled, and burnt

Pickled Okra

On the other hand, the pickled okra turned out beautifully. I found a recipe for Spicy Pickled Okra on the Homesick Texan blog. One thing that caught my eye was the use of red okra. Having little experience with it myself, I was fascinated to learn that okra wasn’t always the green variety. The second, and you’ll find this a running theme, was the ease of the recipe.

Difference in sizes between the green and red okra

When we got our farm share this week I was thrilled to see red okra. It seemed I was destined to try this recipe. The only thing I changed was the peppers – the recipe called for seranos but I had a number of red jalapenos from the CSA and decided to use them.

I prepped the ingredients – washed and trimmed the okra; prepped some small branches of fresh dill, a couple of hot peppers, and a few cloves of garlic.

The brine is a mixture of cider vinegar, cumin, crushed red pepper, and salt – bring it to a boil and pour it into the jars. Top each jar with water if needed and let it sit and cool on the counter for 30 minutes or so before popping them into the fridge.

After a day of curing I tried the okra. They are definitely spicy and have a nice crispness to them. I don’t think I’d make these with larger okra. There is still a very slight bit of slimy texture and I’d imagine it only gets worse with larger versions.

I’m also used to a slightly sweeter pickle so if I make this again next year I’d consider adding a little sugar to the brine.

I’m glad that I get different vegetables in my farm share. I’m forced to try new things and new tastes. Even if things don’t turn out as I expected, I think it’s still a great experience.

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