Lady's Fingers

Hot and Hot Fish Club's Idie Hastings shares pickled okra recipe and techniques. 

By Jan Walsh

Photography by Robin Colter

Pickling is a food preservation method that originated from the need to preserve out-of-season foods for long journeys, especially by sea. But the method survives today because people enjoy the resulting flavors. And okra-also known as lady's finger-is a popular vegetable for southern pickling.

Co-owners, Chris and Idie Hastings have served pickled okra at Hot and Hot Fish Club since they opened in 1995. A mainstay at the cocktail bar, these crisp, cool and tangy pods are not made by executive chef, Chris Hastings but by his wife, Idie. Both the recipe and technique originated with her pickles.

"I read a lot of books about canning and preserving. So I learned the old fashioned way," Idie recalls. "After

 testing and trying a variety of pickling brines, I created this recipe which is tangy with a hint of garlic and chili pepper. At the restaurant they use this same brine to prepare pickled okra, which they offer to guests at the cocktail bar. "The longer the okra sits in the pickling brine, the better. And pickled okra is the perfect

accompaniment for any cocktail hour or Sunday brunch Bloody Mary."

Hastings brings more than book learning and home kitchen experience. She attended the California Culinary Academy in California, worked at Jeremiah Towers' famed Stars Café, Wolfgang Puck's Postrio and she honed her skills as a baker at Patisserie Francaise. In the summertime Chris and I visit the farmers' market about three mornings a week to pick out fresh produce for the restaurant. They are so southern," she describes


6 cups water

3 cups cider vinegar

1 tablespoon pickling spice

2 tablespoons iodized salt

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns

8 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

12 fresh thyme sprigs

9 dried Thai (or Arbol) chili peppers

6 fresh dill weed sprigs

2 pounds fresh okra

Combine the first 11 ingredients (water through dill weed) in a large stockpot and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

While the brine is simmering, rinse the okra with cold running water and pick through to remove any bad okra, tough stems, or leaves. Place the okra in a large stockpot or heavy-duty, heatproof container. Remove the hot bring from the heat and pour over the raw okra. Weigh down the okra with a heatproof plate to make sure they stay completely submerged. Allow the okra to steep at room temperature for one hour. Chill the okra and the brine for at least 48 hours but preferably up to one week. The pickled okra will keep, refrigerated for up to one month. Makes approximately two pounds. The pickling brine can also be used for pickling a variety of fresh produce such as baby carrots, watermelon rinds, ramps, or fennel.

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