I’ve recently learned that not everyone loves okra as much as I do. There are people in my family that love it and there are those who tolerate it. I try to work within the likes and dislikes of my family so we prepare it in a variety of ways. Of course, we fry it, but I also use it in stews as a thickener, and during the winter as a sore throat soother in tea. Since we use okra in a variety of ways, we preserve okra by freezing, canning, fermenting, and dehydrating it.
I like to keep track of our preserved food on a set of worksheets that I print up each year. This helps me make sure I preserve enough of each thing for the year, but not so much that we end up with a lot of leftovers when the next season comes around. You can get a copy of these worksheets emailed to you by filling out the form below.
Freezing okra is my favorite way to preserve okra. I freeze it two ways, breaded and plain. I use the breaded okra for frying which is our favorite way to eat okra. I use the plain okra in stews, stir fry, and for making “okra water” to help sooth a dry cough.
To freeze okra, first wash and dry it. Then cut the okra in thick slices. For plain okra, lay the cut okra on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put in the freezer.
For breaded okra, dip the cut okra in milk (or milk and egg mixture) and then coat the cut okra in a cornmeal/flour mixture. I just kind of wing it and mix 1 cup of milk with 1 egg for the milk and egg mixture. For the cornmeal/flour mixture I use 1 part cornmeal and 2 parts flour plus salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. If you don’t have a good breading “recipe” this one looks good. Once the cut okra is breaded lay it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze it.
When the okra is frozen, put the okra in a ziplock bag and put it back into the freezer. Be sure to label the bag, food has a way of looking like something else once it’s frozen. Freezing the okra first on a baking sheet will keep the okra from clumping together in the bag.
There are two ways of canning okra. If you don’t want to use vinegar and pickle the okra, you have to use a pressure canner. If you want pickled okra you can process them in a water bath just like you do cucumber pickles.
I like to add chopped okra to the beef stew and chicken soup that I can every summer. The okra makes a great filler and it’s the only green that’s still growing when I can the soups. Another benefit of adding okra to your canned soups is that the gel from the okra helps to thicken the soup. And since you can’t safely use thickeners when you can soup, this is a great alternative.
You can also can chopped or whole okra in water using a pressure canner. To pressure can whole okra, pick small, straight okra that are all about the same length and fit in the jar.
Pickled okra is super popular among those who like pickles. The sliminess (which is what most people don’t like) that is often present in cooked okra is not there in pickled okra. To pickle okra, you can use a water bath canner instead of a pressure canner.
Fermented okra is very similar to pickled okra but instead of water bath canning it and it being shelf stable, fermented okra is preserved in a salt brine and will need to be stored in the refrigerator after the fermentation is done.
One great thing about fermenting okra instead of canning it in vinegar is that nutrients are added in the fermentation process. That alone makes it worth it to me to try using some of my favorite herb combinations to pickle okra by fermenting instead of canning.
To make fermented okra start with small, tender okra. I like to use a wide mouth mason jar and a fermenting airlock system so the okra needs to be small enough to fit into the jar. I’ve found that the pint and a half “pickle spear” jars work great for fermenting okra as the okra can stand up and there’s room to add things like crushed garlic or sliced onions. Plus it looks really pretty in the jar.
I like to use a 3% brine. It’s best to weigh the water and the salt to get exact measurements but if you don’t have a digital scale, you can use 1 1/2 Tbsp of sea salt to 4 cups unchlorinated water. Be sure the salt doesn’t have any anti-caking ingredients added to it. Mix the brine and pour it over the jarred okra.
If you want to add spices a crushed garlic clove or garlic slices in each jar is nice. Any spice that you would use in regular cucumber pickles is great in fermented okra, this would include dill, pepper flakes, sliced onions, jalapenos or other peppers.
I don’t use whey in my vegetable ferments but I know many people do. I’ve found that my vegetables ferment just fine without the whey, I rinse but don’t really wash my vegetables so that the bacteria that is naturally occurring on the vegetable helps with the fermentation.
I think this recipe from Cultures of Health of making fermented okra with a bit of raw apple cider vinegar is interesting and worth a try.
I’m not a big fan of dehydrating okra simply because I haven’t found a great need for it in my pantry. However, if you have limited freezer space and don’t have a pressure canner to can plain okra then dehydrating okra is a great choice for you.
Many vegetables should be blanched before dehydrating them. I don’t always follow the blanching rules, especially when it come to freezing green beans, because I can’t tell a difference when I use the frozen green beans in a recipe. However, I do blanch most vegetables before dehydrating them because I believe the end product has a better texture than non-blanched dehydrated vegetables.
To dehydrate okra, fill a stock pot about half full of water and bring to a boil. While the water is heating up, wash okra and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Once the water is boiling, add a few handfuls of okra and bring back to a boil. After four minutes, remove the okra from the boiling water and put into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
Once the okra cools, remove them from the ice water and lay out on a dry towel to dry. You can slice okra in rounds or in strips and lay them on the dehydrator trays. Dehydrate the okra at 135°F until brittle, about 8-10 hours.
To reconstitute dehydrated okra, you can toss some into a soup or gumbo that you’re making and the okra will reconstitute as the soup cooks. It will also thicken the soup which is a bonus. You can also soak the dehydrated okra in hot water or bone broth to reconstitute.
If you want to make dehydrated okra crisps for a snack, you can toss the cut okra spears in a little olive oil and then sprinkle with your favorite seasoning salt before putting them in the dehydrator. Adding a bit of Parmesan cheese is also a tasty addition.