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archive for July 8th, 2012

if you can can can!

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Recipe: pickled okra

We had a good, rainy weekend – all gray, cool, and drenched with a few breaks in between. Looks like the monsoons have begun and they are most welcome in our thirsty mountains. And it was nice to have a weekend without obligations to anyone but each other, and of course, Kaweah.

raindrops cling to aspen leaves

fireweed in bloom, mountain biker on the trail – typical colorado

trotting along, loving her little hike

forest colors are so vibrant after a rain

Last Sunday, I canned my very first anything on my own. I had taken a class back in October, but it was a giant group effort and I didn’t feel confident enough to tackle it again until now. Why is that? Because I was waiting for this book to come out.

food in jars

it’s beautiful

I had mentioned this lovely book and its even lovelier author, Marisa, when I posted her wildly popular strawberry syrup recipe. There are just so many terrific recipes on jams, preserves, pickles, chutneys, sauces, etc. in her book that you could conceivably ignore the “canning” factor altogether. But… why would you? Considering our long winters and our short growing season in Colorado, I have decided that canning the seasonal goodness of summer is worth the investment of time, learning, effort, and money. So I started with something easy – pickles. Here’s my journey…

pickling spice blend from savory spice shop in boulder

Pickling requires pickling spices. I decided to make my own blend (a recipe from Marisa’s book) and dropped by Savory Spice Shop in Boulder (my favorite local spice source) for the spices I didn’t have. I have a barely working knowledge of spices at best, so it’s nice to walk into the store and get fantastic advice from the super friendly and knowledgeable staff when you’re in need of help.

bay leaves, juniper berries, mustard seed, peppercorns, coriander seed, allspice, dill seed, cloves, cinnamon

pour it into a jar

shake (mix)

Now what to pickle? l was having a conversation with friends on Twitter about okra one day and I recalled these pickled okra spears that my good friend, Melinda, had turned me on to almost 20 years ago. Mmm, okra pickles. I had not had one of those in a long time. But where oh where do you get okra in Colorado? Some of the Mexican, Indian, and Asian grocery stores carry it, but Manisha reported that the Indian grocer near her house had beautiful okra just the other day. Ellen (of Helliemae’s Handcrafted Caramels) and I met there and gathered what we thought was a good deal of okra.

oh oh oh okra

For the canning newbs or wannabes, here’s what I used. For the seasoned pros, you can skip to the ingredients. There are in essence, two kinds of jars with which I can: Ball jars (or Ball-style jars) and Weck jars. Ball jars are pretty common and more affordable, but Weck jars are not only incredibly beautiful, they also have glass lids that are BPA-free. I like Weck jars for home use, but I gift the Ball jars since I’m not made of money. You also want a canning pot with a rack to keep the jars from resting on the bottom of the pot. For large batches, I have a 21.5 quart porcelain-on-steel pot with a canning rack. For small batches, I use a tall stock pot with a makeshift rack (it’s a cooling rack). Sweet. You will also want a jar lifter (I like this one from Ball because it is spring-loaded which makes for less cussing), a lid lifter wand (if you use Ball-style jars, otherwise you won’t need this for Weck jars as the lids are glass, not metal), a wide-mouth funnel, a wooden chopstick (or you can pay money for a plastic bubble popper thingy), and some kitchen towels.

1/2 liter (1 pint) weck mold jars (742)

tall stock pot with cooling rack

For the pickling, I got myself a bag of pickling salt which is different from regular salt in that it has no iodine and no additives. I also picked up apple cider vinegar that states 5% acidity on the label. From a food safety standpoint, the acidity level is important for ensuring the right pH so you don’t poison yourself with molds or bacteria. So there’s that.

pickling salt

5% acidity apple cider vinegar

The preparation of jars is slightly different for Weck than for Ball jars and I describe both in the recipe below, but for now, I’m going with the Weck jars. You only need to sterilize the jars if you process (boil in the canning bath) for less than 10 minutes. Since I live at 8500 feet, I have to process my jars for an additional 20 minutes – so yeah, I skipped the sterilization step. But the rubber rings go into a boiling bath for 2-3 minutes and remain in the hot water until you are ready to seal the jars. So do that, get your canning bath ready (it takes some time for the giant pot of water to come to temperature), and do your mise en place.

place the rubber rings in a bath

pickling spices, vinegar, pickling salt, garlic, lemon, okra

the brine: water, vinegar, pickling salt

**Jump for more butter**