How to Freeze Okra

Okra is a Southern favorite, thanks to its heat-loving disposition. Stock up on okra in season and freeze it for later use.

Okra holds its own in hot summer weather, which is one reason it earns top billing in Southern fare. When okra starts ripening, the pods pile up fast. Freezing okra ensures this green goodness can make mealtime appearances all winter long. You can learn how to freeze okra without too much effort, using one of several easy methods.

As with any vegetable, you'll get the best results when you start with the freshest okra you can find. The ridged varieties tend to split easily, so try to grow or purchase smooth-podded types for freezing. Fresh, top-quality pods should be firm and crisp. Test a tip or two—on a fresh pod, it should snap easily. Avoid any okra with spots, pits, or other signs of decay.

As you consider how to freeze okra, think about the ways you'll use the frozen product. Choose a method that preserves the okra in a way that's easiest to use after freezing. No matter which method you use, start by washing pods. If you plan to blanch in boiling water, sort pods by size, grouping them into either small (under 4 inches) or large (over 5 inches). Small pods typically offer a more tender taste.

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After washing, remove stems by cutting them off, but slice carefully because you don't want to cut into the seed cell. To blanch okra, add pods to boiling water. Steam small pods 3 minutes; large ones 4 minutes. Cool pods quickly by placing them in ice water for the same amount of time you boiled them.

After cooling, you have several options for freezing okra. Place whole pods into airtight freezer bags or containers. Or cut pods crosswise prior to freezing. For either method, you can also individually quick freeze pods or pieces by placing them on a parchment-lined tray and slipping it into the freezer for a few hours. Once they're frozen, place them into freezer bags. If you plan to fry okra later, after blanching, slice pods crosswise and dredge with cornmeal or flour. Freeze slices on a parchment-lined tray before placing into freezer bags.

Frozen blanched okra works well in gumbo, boiled, stewed, smothered, or fried. It's usually simplest and easiest to freeze whole pods, and it's a cinch to prepare them later. To slice frozen whole okra, allow pods to thaw slightly before cutting crosswise.

Many Southern cooks like to slice, bread and bake or fry okra prior to freezing. To bake, place plain or breaded slices on a pan and bake in a 300-degree oven 20 minutes. Turn okra once halfway through the baking time. To fry, place plain or breaded okra slices in hot oil in a skillet. Cook for six to eight minutes on medium heat, stirring every so often. With both of these preparations, individually quick freeze slices on parchment-lined trays before stashing pieces in freezer bags or containers. To use these slices, heat in a skillet or oven.

If you have a vacuum sealer, don't remove all the air from your pouches, or you risk crushing the okra. This is especially true if you have sliced and breaded the okra prior to freezing. For best flavor, use whole frozen okra within a year and sliced pods within nine months.

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