Canning…. I should be excited about this in the spring, but I never seem to get around to it until the fall.
Canning has a weird backstory. In a nut shell, Napoleon wanted to be able to better feed his troops during war. By better feed, I don’t mean quality. It was hard finding enough food to make sure large groups of soldiers could eat while on the road and it was equally irritating to have to haul a bunch of live animals and dried staples around to prepare meals. So, the French government offered a cash prize for someone who could figure out a cheap, fast and effective way of preserving food that could be taken on the road. In 1809, a brewer figured out that food cooked inside a jar didn’t spoil unless the jar leaked or broke. He worked on a method to use jars to seal in food, and won the 12,000 franc prize (about $175,000 today). So, what are we making today? Hot pickled okra. Yum!
1 big pot for boiling water
1 medium sauce pan for your pickling brine
Canning Jars, lids and bands (Half pints are fine as long as you don’t have okra that is extra long.)
3 cups of distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
4 -6 cloves of garlic – peeled.
4 – 10 fresh hot peppers
3 tablespoons of whole yellow mustard seeds
3 tablespoons peppercorns
1 to 1 ½ pounds of okra
What I refer to as a “canning jar lifter”. It’s this thing :
1. Clean your okra by rinsing it off under running water and shaking it dry. Set it aside for a minute.
2. Clean your canning jars and then put the okra top down into the jars. Try to get them as full as possible without smooshing the okra.
3. On top of the okra in the spaces, add your peppers and garlic cloves. This is one of those things where you do it to taste. Like it hot? Use hotter peppers and more of them. Want just a hint? Use a halved jalapeno that has been seeded.
4. In your big pot, boil a bunch of water. How much water? Not sure. To test this out, put one of your canning jars in the pot. You want the water level to be about an inch and a half or two inches from the top of the jar. Bring this to a rolling boil as well.
5. In your sauce pan, combine your vinegar, mustard seeds, peppercorns, sugar, kosher salt and about 4 cups of water. Heat all of that until the sugar and salt have been dissolved. After that, bring everything to a rolling boil.
6. Pour the hot brine into the jars, filling them so that there is about a half inch of room left. Try to keep it all on the INSIDE of the jar. If you spill, you will just have to do more clean up later. NO ONE WANTS THIS. You need to tap the jar gently to let any sneaky air bubbles rise to the top, but beware. You just put boiling liquid into a glass jar. It will be hot. I like using a dish towel wrapped around the jar as a hot pad for this part as you can grip it a little better.
7. If all of the above was theoretically done correctly, you should be good to seal your cans. I don’t trust myself, so I am going to reheat everything for a minute. To do this….
8. Turn your boiling water down to low and let the water settle for a bit. Then, using your canning jar lifter, put the canning jars (now filled with okra, peppers and pickling brine) into the hot water. The water level SHOULD NEVER REACH THE TOP OF THE JARS. The water will be displaced as you put more jars into the big pot, so you may need to scoop out a little bit of water as you go to keep the water level from rising too high.
9. Let everything get nice and toasty in the hot water bath. After a few minutes, use the canning jar lifter to pull the jars out. Set them on a towel or heat proof surface. Use a clean towel to wipe and dry the lips of the jars. Place a lid firmly on the jar and wait. After a few minutes, if the can seals, you will hear a “thwip” as a vacuum is created. Once you hear that noise, put on the bands, wipe everything clean and wait for them to cool to store in the pantry. The pickled okra can last several months!
10. BUT WHAT IF THE JARS DON’T SEAL? Stick them in the fridge and eat them in the next week or so.
11. The final step? Come to the OKRA Charity Saloon before the end of September to help support educational programming at the Museum. For more information, visit hmns.org/okra.