Okra is a tasty summertime treat and a staple in many Southern homes. Freeze some while it's in season, and you'll be able to enjoy it whenever you like. This step-by-step guide will take you through the process of freezing okra.
Start With Fresh-Picked Okra
Fresh okra is a slender, green, tube-like vegetable, and is sometimes even called "lady fingers" because of its shape. It's actually a pod filled with small white seeds.
Fresh-picked okra works best for not only recipes but also when freezing. Okra should have unblemished skin when you buy it—if you can find it at your local market. It's not a highly popular vegetable in some regions, and not all grocers stock it. Your best chances of finding the vegetable are from May through September.
Wash and Stem the Okra
The first step is to wash the okra in a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water. The acetic acid in the vinegar kills bacteria and helps to dissolve the wax, pesticide, and fertilizer residues. It'll also rid just-picked okra of any bugs that may be hanging on. Soak the okra in the solution for a minute or two, and then rinse.
Cut off the stems, being careful not to cut into the seed cells. If you can see seeds, you're cutting off too much.
Blanch the Okra
Blanching will halt the enzyme process, so your okra maintains that just-picked color, flavor, and texture. Blanch your okra by submerging it in a pot of boiling water. Small okra pods need to be blanched for 3 minutes; large okra pods need 4 minutes.
It's important to stop this enzymatic activity because it can cause okra (as well as other vegetables) to decay. These enzymes can survive freezing temperatures and continue the decaying process even though the okra is frozen. Pretreating the okra in boiling water kills the enzymes.
Submerge the Okra in an Ice Water Bath
To stop the cooking process, transfer your blanched okra to an ice water bath. Let the pods cool for a few minutes; then, move them to a colander to drain.
Submerging okra pods in the ice bath helps to cool them off, of course, but doing so also sets in the green color so the okra will look good—and even fresh-picked—when it comes out of the freezer.
Chop the Okra
Leave the pods whole, or chop them up into bite-sized pieces—the choice is yours. If you plan to fry your okra later, go ahead and dredge the pieces in your favorite cornmeal or flour mixture.
Flash-Freeze the Okra
To ensure that your okra freezes in individual pieces, instead of clumps, you need to first flash-freeze the pieces in one even layer. Spread the okra out on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer until frozen.
Transfer the Frozen Okra to Freezer Bags
Once the okra is frozen, transfer to freezer bags and return it to the freezer. Use the okra within a year for the best quality. To cook with the frozen okra, simply scoop out what you need, and add it to your recipe. It does not need to be thawed.