Every year during the summer, it was time to process okra. Everyone in the field looked like they were in the desert because of all the long sleeved clothing & bonnets they had on to pick okra. Picking okra in the summer is not only hot but it itches so bad you have to protect your skin. But that’s just the beginning, it’s time to tape of the thumb, pull out the knife, get the dish pan out & sit in a comfortable area because now we have to cut the okra to start the canning process. Yes it was a lot of work but it was also a time for the older generation to sit & talk to the younger generation that had no choice but to assist; as a very young child, my dad use to tell me to go assist my old aunts, & because of a 1/8” leather belt that he wore, the subject was never open for discussion. Nevertheless, this was the time I learned so much about how they grew up, realizing that it was much harder than what I was use to, but hearing them talk about the different things that went on while they all got together working, they made it sound like a lot of fun just being together. The strongest lesson I got from hauling okra, getting water for the cutters to drink, or having to bear getting kissed for any little task I did by the old ladies, was nothing is more important than family & having to do whatever it takes to always be together, even if it was just cutting okra.
Okra Canning process:
Note: The word “CANNING” actually meant the preservation process, whether it was cooking down the okra to bag & freeze or how it was done before refrigeration, placed in jars, sealed, & kept in a cool place in the home.
The process I’m giving directions on is the old time method, different things like fresh tomatoes can be substituted with tomato sauce or paste.
- Cut okra, amount doesn’t matter, same process, measurements are not required for this part.
- Homegrown diced tomatoes to breakdown slime from okra, usually 2 large tomatoes per gallon of cut okra.
- Homegrown banana peppers, diced fine.
- Diced onions & bell peppers
- In a pot large enough to hold all contents, (I would not use a black cast iron , okra will look burnt), put all ingredients together in pot & season with salt & spices, careful on both, you can add when okra is prepared for meals. Also, add sufficient amount of hog lard or cooking oil to prevent sticking.
- Start on medium heat due to too much heat will promote scorching.
- Stir often, okra will begin to slime & stick.
- When slime has almost disappeared & okra has cooked down to 1/2 it’s original size, you’re ready to remove from heat & let cool to room temp.
- “CANNING” preservation is your choice, most people bag & store in freezer.
- Desired amount of okra
- Large fresh shrimp, dried shrimp, or both.
- Fresh blue crabs
- For those that like smoked flavor but want to keep it strictly seafood, smoked garfish is tough & can be cooked a long time before breaking apart.
- In a stainless pot of your choice: Add okra, crabs, & dry shrimp; fresh shrimp should be added 10 min before okra totally cooked, fresh shrimp only takes 5-7 min to cook, obviously a little longer if heat very low.
- Cook on medium to low heat for no more than 45 min.
- Add seasoned fresh shrimp, unseasoned acceptable also & cook no more than 10-15 min.
- Remove from heat & serve over white rice.
Note: If smothered okra with sausage, smoked meats, Tasso, chicken, etc. is desired, follow same cooking instructions: I cook seafood & smoked meats in okra together as well.