When it comes to Bloody Marys, people tend to have a lot of opinions. Some like it spicy, others want more zest. For Ashley English, author of the new book Southern From Scratch, the go-to brunch cocktail is the perfect opportunity to showcase one of her favorite ingredients: pickled okra.
Okra tends to get a bad rap, thanks to its odd texture and appearance (“it’s very slimy and looks like a witch’s finger!” says English). But when it’s pickled, it’s a delicious addition to meals or drinks. “I’m a fan of bold cocktails at brunch, and I also enjoy incorporating pickles in unusual and unanticipated ways,” says English. “Pickled okra tucked into a zippy Bloody Mary was my way of subversively pickle-ifying an already bold drink.”
English recommends pickling the okra yourself (check out her recipe below) but you can also use store-bought if you’re short on time. After mixing up the Bloody Mary, garnish it with the pickled okra for a more substantive drink. “I love that it gives you something to nibble on alongside the cocktail while also adding to its overall flavor,” says English.
Prep Time10 minutes
For the pickled okra
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 3 cups water
- 1/3 cup pickling salt
- 6 garlic cloves,
- 6 tsp dill seeds
- 3 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 lbs okra, stem ends trimmed
For the bloody mary
- 3 oz vodka
- 6 oz tomato juice or tomato-based veggie juice
- 1 Tbsp pickled okra brine
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp prepared horse radish
- Dash of hot sauce
- freshly ground black pepper
- Several pinches of celery salt, for the drink and the rim
- Lemon slice
- Celery stalk, for stirring
- Pickled okra, for garnish
To make the pickled okra
Fill a canner or large stockpot with water and place six or seven pint jars inside. Heat over medium-high heat, bringing just to the boiling point.
In a medium pot, bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a full, rolling boil. Remove pot from heat. Transfer the brine to a pourable, spouted container, such as a heatproof measuring cup, if desired.
Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canner and place on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. Place one garlic clove, one teaspoon dill seeds, and a half teaspoon of the pepper flakes into each jar. With the help of a canning funnel, pack the okra into the jars and top off with the brine, reserving a half-inch headspace.
Use a spatula or wooden chopstick to remove any trapped air bubbles around the interior circumference of the jars. Wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on the lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.
Again using a jar lifter, slowly place the filled jars in the canner. Be sure that the jars are covered by at least one inch of water. Bring to a boil, and then process for ten minutes, starting the timer once the water is at a full, rolling boil. Adjust for altitude as needed.
To make the Bloody Mary
In a small bowl, mix the vodka, tomato juice, brine, Worcestershire, lemon juice, horseradish, hot sauce, several grinds of pepper, and a pinch of celery salt. Chill in the refrigerator until cool. (If you start with cold tomato juice, the mixture will cool much faster.)
Rub the rim of a tall glass with the lemon slice, then dip the rim in a plate of celery salt. Add some ice, leaving plenty of room for the drink.
Remove the chilled mixture from the refrigerator. Stir, then pour over the ice. Garnish with a celery stalk and pickled okra. Serve immediately.
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