homesteads and okra.

Growing up, it was all about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I devoured the Little House series, and when I was finished I started back at book one.  I vividly remember the story of her dad getting stalked by a panther, and how the attic was her favorite place to play.

When I was sick, my mom and I would eat popsicles and watch Little House on the Prairie.

Perhaps I owe this desire to nest, to garden, to explore the idea of being a modern homesteader to Laura. There is something very romantic about building your life with your hands, learning how things grow. I realize that I live in this strange dichotomy, one foot firmly planted in the world of blogs, Facebook and Twitter while the other foot is barefoot, in the dirt.

I channeled my inner Wilder last weekend and pickled some okra.

The boy, sister and I took a trip to the HOPE farmers market. A tiny little market tucked in between an abandoned warehouse-turned-art-space and the railroad tracks.

Still 85 degrees, I found myself seeking shade and leaning on my iced coffee to keep cool. We are entering into the second growing season (MAGICAL) of the year, which means all things green are back in season. Beautiful bundles of kale, large stalks of basil and the last of the okra.

Okra requires quite a bit of heat to prosper, and these 80 degree days and 55 degree nights means it’s on its way out. Inquiring on how long I would be able to get it, the farmer shrugged, “I keep thinking it’s done, and it keeps producing.”

I didn’t want to risk it, so I bought a shit ton and knew that it was time to preserve.

I have experience pickling thanks to hot August afternoons with my grandma. We’d all crowd in her tiny kitchen, each of us given a task that would result in the best and hottest pickles this world has ever seen.

My mouth just started watering at the thought of them. Literally.

There isn’t much difference between pickling cucumbers and pickling okra. You wash and sanitize the jars, stuff them with what you want, pour over the brine and process.

And then you wait, which is really the worst part of the whole ordeal.

Having schlepped all of my canning tools from Seattle (my mom thought I was crazy when I demanded that I bring my canning pot with me… priorities, mother) it was easy as pie to whip these puppies out. Now I have cans of okra sitting in my cupboard, just waiting to be consumed.

I think Laura would have been proud.

Hot and Spicy Pickled Okra

  • 2 pounds fresh okra, washed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 1/4 cup salt (SO MUCH SALT)
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill
  • head of garlic
  • assortment of hot peppers (we used jalapeno, habanero and serrano… our mouths MAY explode later)

First things first. Prepare everything. Start your canning bath, as the water takes forever to boil. Wash your jars. Fill them with warm water and put them in the canning pot to sanitize. When the water in the pot reaches boiling, boil the cans for at least 10 minutes to make sure they are properly sanitized. Make sure you also boil and sanitize the lids.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, you can get your okra, garlic and peppers ready. Set them aside, and if you feel inclined you can take a picture.

Isn’t food the prettiest?

Once your cans are sanitized you can start stuffing them. Now, this was my first time canning okra so I wasn’t sure how to approach this. My method was to stuff them with as much as I could, and hope for the best. Tip for next time: stuff more. After I poured the brine in there, everything rose to the top of the jar and I saw how much extra room I had in there.

Bummer

What is in there will taste delicious, I am sure. But now I know for next time that I need to really fill all of that extra space with something. Perhaps more peppers? Who knows.

So each of my jars had about 10 pieces of okra, 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, the three types of peppers and a couple of sprigs of dill.
Next time, I will jam so much garlic, dill and peppers in there the okra will probably be inedible. What can I say, I like things spicy.

After you cut up the vegetables, you will want to prepare the brine. To do this you will want to bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil, and then distribute evenly in the jars, leaving about 1.5 inches at the top. After you have filled the jars with the brine, wipe the rims of the jars, pop on a lid and put back in the canning bath to process for 10 minutes. After processing, remove and wait to hear that magical pop. Now I will just have to wait and see just how much heat I can handle…

 

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