QUESTION: I’m harvesting a lot of okra. Can okra be frozen? What is the best way to freeze it? -Heather R
ANSWER: When freezing any vegetable, you will get the best final product by first selecting the freshest produce you can find. The ridged okra varieties split easily so it is best to purchase or grow the smooth-podded varieties if you are wanting to freeze them. The freshest, highest-quality okra pods should be firm and crisp. Test out a pod or two by snapping them. If they break open easily, they are nice and fresh. Avoid freezing any pods with signs of decay, such as spots, or pits.
There are a few freezing methods to choose from when freezing okra, so think about how you are going to be using the okra and choose the method that works best for your needs. No matter which method you choose, the first step is to wash the okra. If you’re going to be blanching the pods, sort them into groups of small, or under four inch pods, and large, or over five inch pods. Small pods typically provide a more tender texture and subtle taste.
Remove the stems by slicing them off after you wash the pods, but be careful, as you don’t want to cut into the seed cell. Next, start the blanching process by adding the pods to boiling water. Steam large pods for four minutes and smaller pods for three. Cool them quickly after boiling by moving them into ice water baths for the same amount of time that you boiled them.
After cooling off your pods, you can choose between several different freezing options depending on how you are going to be using your okra down the road. Place whole pods into airtight containers or in freezer bags, or slice pods crosswise first. Either way, you could also quick freeze pods or slices by putting them onto a tray lined with parchment paper and pop them into the freezer for a couple of hours. After they are frozen, put them into freezer bags in serving sizes.
If you plan on frying the okra when you use them down the road, you will want to slice them crosswise and dredge them with cornmeal or flour after blanching and then freeze them on a tray lined with parchment before putting them into freezer bags. Frozen blanched okra is perfect for most cooking methods, including boiling, stewing, smothering, tossing into gumbo, or frying. The simplest freezing method is to freeze the whole pods and it is super easy to use them later when you freeze them whole. Just allow them to thaw a little bit before slicing them cutting crosswise.
You may also choose to slice, bread, and bake (or fry) your okra prior to freezing it. To bake, place plain or breaded slices on a pan and bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees F. Turn once after they have cooked for 10 minutes. To fry, heat up some oil in a skillet and place the plain or breaded okra slices into the oil for six to eight minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. For both preparation options, individually quick freeze your slices on parchment-lined trays before storing in freezer bags or airtight containers. To use the slices later, heat them in a skillet or oven.
If you have a vacuum sealer, don’t risk crushing the okra by removing all of the air from your pouches, especially if you have sliced and breaded them prior to freezing. For the best possible flavor and texture results, use sliced frozen pods within a nine month period, or whole frozen pods within a year.