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Pickled Okra Memories

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My favorite thing about food, other than how most of it tastes amazing, is how it's bonded to memory. What's your favorite thing to eat? Think about that food right now. Where are you? You're probably far, far away. Maybe you're a kid. Whenever it is, chances are you're happy. I love the instant time-traveling aspect of food memories. It's magical.

One of my most favorite foods is pickled okra. I wish I were surrounded by it this very moment. Okra is maybe a weird food to talk about if you're not from the South, but stay with me.

Whenever I think of pickled okra I am instantly seven years old and I'm at the salad bar of a restaurant in my hometown with my mom. She used to sneak me extra pieces of okra from the salad bar because she knew I loved it. Those little okra presents felt like our little secret.

When I think of those trips to the salad bar, I instantly see a giant canister of pickled okra and so clearly that I can almost reach out and touch it. Just about every time I eat pickled okra I have this little fragment of a memory. When the memory pops up I am filled with warm happy thoughts. I am filled with love, love for my Mom and love for pickled okra. 

I was at a fancy specialty grocery store recently and happened upon a selection of pickled okra. I know -- can you believe it? How random. There was more than one brand and several different flavors. I didn't even have to taste the okra; I was instantly seven and standing in front of that same old salad bar in my hometown with my mom. I love that feeling and I adore that weird little flash back. 

I don't run across pickled okra very often these days, but I decided that maybe I should start making it at home so I can have my little okra memories whenever I want. How revolutionary! Until I saw the okra at the store it never even occurred to me that it could be anywhere other than that salad bar from long ago. It's time to fix that. Maybe you're not in love with okra -- maybe it's chocolate cake or humus or homemade ice cream. It can be any number of things. I think you should find a recipe for your favorite food and make it tonight. You won't be disappointed I promise.


Pickled Okra


10 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups white vinegar
6 teaspoons kosher salt
Several sprigs of fresh dill
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns (if you have 'em)


In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil, reduce the heat so the water simmers and add the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and salt, raise the heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt dissolves. Remove from the heat.  

In 2 clear 1-quart jars, place a few sprigs of dill. Divide the seeds and peppercorns between the jars. Using tongs, remove the garlic from the brine and place 5 cloves in each jar. Then pack the jars full of cucumbers, carrots, scallions or green beans, cauliflower and chiles. You want them to be tightly stuffed.  

Bring the brine back to a boil, pour it over the vegetables to cover completely, let cool, then cover and refrigerate. The pickles will taste good in just a few hours, better after a couple of days. And they'll keep for about 3 months.  

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