(For Number One English Major and Okra Loving Son)
There are simply not enough homages to the lowly okra pickle. I offer the one below: a liberal rewriting of John Tobias’s superb poem “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity”.
After that, read on for the uber simple way to make these briny beauties.
During the summer;
When okra can be possible;
When the purpose of canning
Is to preserve a memory;
When pricky green pods
Neatly fitted trays
Of plastic wrapped Styrofoam,
Displayed in abundance
At the Best Asian Market in Spokane)
Are collected in shopping abandon
With dreams of jars of pickles dancing
Far above and away
From the sweetening effects
Of jam making.
During this summer–
Which may never be memorable
Except for the real tang of pickles
That were once lowly okra–
Overshadowed by watermelons and zucchini.
Delicate, imperial pods
Snapping frigidly on sun-parched tongues
Dribbling from chins;
The salty, spicy brine,
To be slurped
From the empty mason jar;
And when the first jar was done,
There was always another one:
As if unlimited in sum,
Of cravings quickly sated
On taste memories for future gorging.
A single batch remains.
How shall we linger over the last pickle
And swallow greedily?
In this jar put up felicitously
The summer which certainly was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And extract that spiny, homely okra
And let it linger on our tongue:
We give thanks to the Best Asian Market in Spokane.
- 2 lb okra
- 4 C water
- 4 C white vinegar
- 2 T salt
- 1 T sugar
- 10 cloves of garlic, chopped rough
- dill sprigs
- fresh thyme
- hot peppers if desired (jalapeno, etc–fresh or dried)
Cut off stem end of okra, but not so far as to expose the pod. Heat your brine to ensure dilution of sugar and salt (hold at hot temp). Fit raw okra into sterilized jars tightly.Jam them in really tight! Add whatever combination of add-ins you like. I made several this last time: traditional with dill, garlic, peppercorns, minimal hot peppers; lemon and thyme with garlic and peppercorns; and spicy with dill, garlic, peppercorns and lots of peppers. Fill jars with hot brine. Usually with all jars, I put a lemon slice on the top to help keep the pickles from floating up. (It really doesn’t work, but it’s sort of superstitious.)
Put on warmed lids and bands. Process in water bath canner for 15 minutes at sea level for pint jars. Check your extension service or voluminous canning internet sources for larger jars and different altitudes. Rule of thumb is that for every 1,000 ft above sea level, add a minute of processing. (We are at 2,000 ft above sea level, so I processed mine for 17 minutes.)
Needs 3 weeks to develop flavor. (Anticipation is just killing me!)