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Pucker Up for Pickled Okra

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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South Carolina summers are sticky and sweltering—prime conditions for okra picking. Daily harvests of the long, green pods go fast at farmers markets and produce stands. After all, folks across the state are anticipating their share of stewed okra and tomatoes, fried okra, boiled okra, okra stew, roasted okra and, perhaps the most anticipated of all okra preparations, pickled okra.

Though it’s delicious in all its preparations, okra really shows off its most appetizing qualities when it lands in a jar of spicy brine. Crisp yet tender, slightly sweet yet zesty, these toothsome packages filled with juicy seed pearls, stand out when added to a cocktail party spread, as a colorful garnish for a bloody mary, or plucked straight from the jar for a satisfying, hunger-chasing snack.

Now, you can buy them off the grocery store shelf. But for the ultimate okra pickle, homemade is the way to go. Most Southern families have at least one pickle master among them to keep the clan supplied. If yours doesn’t, it’s time to take the okra pickle plunge and make some yourself.

Don’t worry—no complicated kitchen skills needed. While some folks do a proper canning with sterile jars and water baths, others take a simpler route by making refrigerator okra pickles. That’s the method we’re sharing here.

But first things first. For the finest batch, you need about 1½ pounds freshly picked, bright green, unblemished okra pods. They should be young to ensure tenderness. Avoid large, thick pods as they tend to be fibrous and woody in texture. You’ll also need some white vinegar, sugar, salt, spices, garlic cloves and, for a little kick, a fresh hot pepper. The best ingredient of all, though, is time—as in “just a little required.”

Follow this recipe for crunchy, tasty okra pickles you’ll be proud to share—if you can resist eating them all yourself.

 

Pickled Okra
1½ pounds South Carolina-grown okra
2½ cups white vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 large fresh dill sprigs
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise

In a large pot, bring vinegar, water, sugar, salt, peppercorns and seeds to a boil. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove the pot from the heat. Add the washed okra, fresh dill, jalapeños and garlic. Stir gently. Cover the pot and set aside to cool. Once it reaches room temperature, transfer the contents of the pot to a large, clean jar or other container. Seal with a lid and tuck the brined okra away in the refrigerator for three to seven days before sampling. Your okra pickles will keep nicely in the refrigerator for up to two months, but bets are on that you’ll be making a second batch way before then.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 30 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.