Friday, August 12, 2011

Folklife Friday: Freezing Okra

In the South, we love our okra.

Most vegetable gardens have a row or two of okra. If they don't, it is probably because of space and sun restrictions, not because the gardeners didn't want it.

Okra is related to cotton (compare their blossoms) and hibiscus. Because it is fibrous, the best okra pods are those that are very immature, not over a few days old.

We seemingly have to wait for it forever. It is a heat loving plant, and won't grow as long as the soil is the least bit cool. But when it starts producing, it is hard to keep up with. It needs to be picked everyday during optimal growing conditions. We eat it everyday with enough left over for freezing and canning.

I have made ten pints of pickled okra so far, but most of my family prefers it fried. Here's how I prepared some for the freezer today.

Wash the okra and let it dry on a towel.

Cut into thin rounds; no more than 1/4 inch.

Today I have a little less than two gallons. For that amount, I add 1/2 cup cornmeal mix and a heaping tablespoon of Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. (No, they don't pay me to advertise, but they should because I'm always recommending it!)

Shake the bowl until the okra is completely coated with the dry mixture.

Spread in single layers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover that with another sheet of parchment paper and spread another layer. You can put three layers on one baking sheet safely.

Freeze. With this method, every piece is frozen individually. After they are frozen, transfer to a large bag for storage in the freezer. Remove just however much you need when you are ready to cook it.

We will have fried okra in January when summer is just a memory.

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day,
and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny
with a love that nobody could share or conceive of
who had never taken part in the process of creation.
It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world
to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil,
or a rose of early peas just peeping forth
sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
~~~ Nathaniel Hawthorne