Family & Food
Our granddaughter, Maggie, came home from college a few days ago and had a list of foods she was craving)) She wanted fried okra, green beans, potato soup, and chicken and dumplings. So what did I do, … I made fresh fried okra and green beans for Thanksgiving lunch at Carrie’s. The soup and dumplings will come later after the Thanksgiving leftovers are done.
Southern-style fried okra calls for fresh okra. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll grab a bag of frozen breaded okra most of the time and use that, but it’s not as good as using fresh okra.
I really hadn’t thought about how long it had been since I had fried fresh okra. Probably not since my dad’s last garden which was a few years ago.
Fresh okra from the garden was a staple growing up in the summer. As soon as the pods were a couple of inches long, mother would send us out to the garden with a sharp knife to cut some okra. Okra grows on the stalk pointed upward in case in you didn’t know. If you haven’t cut okra from a garden, you probably wouldn’t know))
There is a knack for cutting okra. You have to cut it at the stem and not into the pod itself. If you cut into the pod, there is a slightly slimy, sticky fluid that will leak out. When cut up, breaded, and fried, there is no slime. But boil a piece whole and bite into it….yep…slime! Some people love it, some hate it. I could never eat boiled okra, but my mother loved it. Occasionally, she would cook a few pods in with a pot of peas. Sometimes she would make us try it before we could leave the table, but she soon gave up on it.
Okra has to be cut frequently from the plant or the pods will grow too large to be at their best. Okra that is anywhere from 2-5″ in length is just about the best. If it grows larger than that, it’s too tough and the seeds will be large.
Okra has a prickly-like covering. Some varieties are smoother than others, and some are even reddish to purple in color.
However, if larger pods are left on the stalk to dry, they make beautiful decorations painted gold!
Frying Fresh Okra
I really hadn’t thought of doing a blog post when I prepared the fried okra so I didn’t take images along the way. But it’s so simple you won’t need images to fix up a batch of fresh fried okra))
No real measurements are needed for fried okra because it just all depends on how much okra you plan to fry. I probably used about a pound of fresh okra and it yielded a casserole dish full.
Wash the fresh okra and pat dry. Snip off the pointy tip and top of the okra then cut into about 1/2″ pieces.
Beat one egg and about 1/2 cup of buttermilk together. If you’re making a larger batch, you might need another egg or more buttermilk. You can use plain milk too.
As you cut up the okra, place it in the bowl of egg mixture and thoroughly coat each piece.
Make a half-and-half mixture of meal and flour. For instance, if you use 1 cup of cornmeal, use 1 cup of flour. Add salt and pepper. Mix the dry ingredients together. I like to take two plastic bags (double bagged, one inside the other) and pour the dry mixture into it.
Dip the okra out of the egg mixture, let it drip off, and place the okra in the bag. I do the whole batch at one time.
Hold the bag tightly so you don’t spill it and just turn to back and forth to coat the okra. Check the okra and if any of it still looks a bit wet, add more meal or flour. You can dredge in a large bowl too and just turn the okra with your hand.
Our family really likes the okra crispy, so sometimes if I still have a good bit of egg and milk mixture left, I double dip the okra and put it back in the bag again with a little more meal and flour.
Fill a cast iron skill with about 1.5″ of vegetable oil and heat. Drop one piece of okra in to test the temperature. When it starts to fry, add other pieces one at a time. Don’t overcrowd the skillet. They need a little room to move around and I like to turn them once after they have browned on one side.
Sometimes it takes 3-4 skillet fulls to get it all fried. It just depends on how much you have. Once the okra is golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels. I like to turn the oven on warm and keep a pan to transfer the just cooked okra to while I’m working on the next skillet full.
Add more salt and pepper as necessary to taste.
Fried okra and green beans….is standard fare for one of our meals. Usually served with chicken and dumplings, or stewed potatoes, cornbread, and iced tea. Yum!
Once you’ve mastered fried okra, you might want to try some fried green tomatoes too!
And you need cornbread with fried okra! Here’s a family favorite that jazzes up regular cornbread.