as-you-go-along refrigerator pickles?
June 22, 2015 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Hi y'all. My garden is at a time when it's making one or two okra a day. Is there a way to pickle these as I go along? All the refrigerator pickle recipes I find start with boiling a brine. Would it be food-safe to fill a Reditainer with brine, then add a couple okras a day, taking the oldest one out when I wanted a pickle?

I'm not a super stickler about food safety - neither of us is immunocompromised or anything - but I have no desire to give my wife botulism. Other hints for using one or two okra a day would of course not be unwelcome. Thanks in advance for any advice!
posted by ftm to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here's a recipe for cornichons done incrementally from the Bouchon cookbook:
[Pick] the ones that are just the right size, no longer than 1.5 to 2 inches.
Rub the cucumbers with a clean damp cloth to remove any prickers and dirt. Place the cucumbers in a small stainless steel bowl and toss them with a light coating of salt. Refrigerate covered for a day.
  The following day, remove the cucumbers from the bowl and wipe them with a dry cloth to remove any remaining dirt or prickers. Place a spring of tarragon, several black peppercorns, and a few pickled onions in a lidded jar. ... Add the cucumbers and enough [white] vinegar to cover them. It is all right for the tarragon to be left exposed. Seal the jar and refrigerate.
  The next day, repeat with newly picked and salted cucumbers, continuing to add enough vinegar to cover each batch. When the jar is half full, add another spring of tarragon, a few more onions, and vinegar to cover.
  When the jar is full, top up with a final sprig of tarragon. Seal and write the date on the jar. Store in a cool cellar or in the refrigerator ... They will need to sit for at least 6 weeks for optimum flavor and can be kept for up to a year.
The two major food-safety takeaways I get from this are using straight (5% acetic acid) vinegar rather than a blended brine, and salting overnight to remove excess water to avoid diluting the vinegar (and likely to encourage the migration of the vinegar into the vegetables once immersed).

You'd end up with a very vinegar-y product, like a cornichon, but assuming that the texture isn't materially impacted (requires experimentation!) I think this would be an entirely food-safe process with small okra. You could soak okra you remove overnight in the fridge in fresh water if they're coming out too vinegary for you. Of course you would use different herbs/spices in the process according to your preference.
posted by j.edwards at 4:34 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Botulism is anaerobic, so you should be clear on that front.

I have no official data about the safety of doing this, but I do it all the time. I make a lazy brine (vinegar + salt + sugar + spices, or sometimes just salt + spices, or...) and pop veggies in and out as consumption/production requires. My experience in doing so is that after a while, your brine will start to get gross, or you'll start to get bits of mold, and I figure that's the point at which you should start over. No one has ever gotten sick from eating things I've pickled like this.

That said, okra is easily frozen. The LSU AgCenter has a sheet on how to do so here (warning: PDF). It does require blanching, but if you do it every few days, it doesn't sound like too much a pain.
posted by MeghanC at 4:37 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: That'll be fine -- just consider it a refrigerator pickle. You should be aware, though, that the texture will be a bit different since the canning processing cooks the pods somewhat. But, whatever you do, do NOT poke holes in the pods or use pods with broken skin. If you do, you will end up with a slimy mess.

You can store okra in the fridge for a week or so if you keep it dry. Put it in a ziploc bag with some paper towels, then change the paper towels when they get damp. Add okra as you pick it. I personally don't like freezing it, because it ups the slime factor. (I should mention that I'm not anti-okra at all -- it's my favorite vegetable, actually -- but I like to avoid excess slime when possible.)

One thing you can do with a small quantity of okra (but more than one or two pods) is roast them whole either in the oven or in a hot pan. Use a little bit of oil either way, then roast/pan roast until they're browned and soft. Sprinkle with salt and eat as an appetizer, like you would shishito or padron peppers.

Yay okra!
posted by mudpuppie at 6:07 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I started using this fridge pickle recipe from Smitten Kitchen last summer, and it's dead easy. I guess the question is whether the okra would give up enough water compared to the cucumber to make it work. And I'd imagine you might not want the dill in the equation.

Or do you?

Or maybe garlic or chilis instead.

In any case, at its core it's just straight white vinegar, salt, and overnight in the fridge.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:26 PM on June 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Fried okra is a Southern treat. Dip it in ranch or another creamy sauce.
posted by neushoorn at 5:19 AM on June 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for everyone's advice. I have some pickles starting now but I also marked neushoorn's answer as best because I've now observed that, even at 4-5 okras a day, they keep just fine on the counter or in the fridge for damn near a week and that gives me plenty for a batch of fried okra which is really what I would have wanted to do in the first place! (Although the pickles are going to be awesome too!) Thanks again!
posted by ftm at 12:09 PM on July 14, 2015

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