In addition to being supremely slimy (and providing high fiber from all that mucilage), did you know that okra is also in the same family as cotton, cacao, and hibiscus (Malvaceae)?
Once you’ve had enough fresh southern-style fried okra this spring, preserve those precious pods by freezing, drying, pickling, or canning them. Complete recommendations are accessible by clicking the blue links below.
Freezing Okra is simple, but the best quality frozen okra will result from smoother rather than more ridged varieties because the smooth types do not split as easily. Water blanch small pods (4 inches or less) for 3 minutes and large pods for 4 minutes. Quickly cool and drain pods, then either leave whole or slice crosswise. Pack into freezer containers leaving ½-inch headspace, seal, and freeze.
For Freezing Okra for Frying, follow instructions above but dredge with flour or meal after slicing crosswise. Spread in a single layer on shallow trays and place trays in freezer just long enough for them to firm, then package quickly leaving ½-inch headspace, seal, and freeze.
Drying Okra is also a simple process, so long as you have a food dehydrator or an oven that registers 140°F. (And drying really reduces that gooey slime.) Wash, trim, and slice okra crosswise into 1/8- to ¼- inch disks. No blanching is required, just place in a single layer on dehydrator trays or cookie sheets and dry for 8-10 hours in a dehydrator, up to twice as long in an oven. Drying time depends on air circulation — directing a fan towards a slightly opened oven speeds up drying time.
As with pickled products in general, this recipe for Pickled Dilled Okra contains enough vinegar in proportion to solid food that the previously low acid food becomes acidified. Unlike okra by itself, which is a low acid food, acidified foods like this pickled okra can be safely processed in a boiling water canner. And, it makes a great, tangy snack!
Using a pressure canner, okra can be canned by itself or with tomatoes. Directions for Canning Okra call for tender young pods to be washed and ends trimmed, then left whole or cut into 1-inch pieces. After boiling the pods for 2-minutes, drain liquid such that you can use it to cover the pods after you pack them into jars. Leave 1-inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each jar for flavor, if desired. Process in a pressure canner; pints for 25 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes. Use the tables in the recommendations to make appropriate altitude adjustments.
For Canning Tomatoes with Okra, okra is added to tomatoes at about a 1 to 3 ratio. Tomatoes are a borderline acid food and, as you now know, okra is a low acid food, so be sure to follow the tested directions and pressure canning process times from USDA.