Fried Okra…

img_3323.jpgFried Okra! This Southern Favorite has been around as long as anyone can remember and without exception is remembered fondly! So fondly that one friend named her precious little Dog, Okra. I’ve been told that a man who had a particular fondness for Okra named his two daughters Okra and Hibiscus! (Okra plants bear Hibiscus-like blossoms and are in the same plant family!) Those were brilliant names; a guarantee that everyone would love those girls! However, Okra is an acquired taste for anyone who was born outside of the South- there are whines that it is slimy (and it is slimy unless it’s fried)  Folks also wonder ‘Why anyone would eat Okra!’ Well, okra that is not fried, is used to thicken the finest gumbos, the best pots of vegetable soups, and a pod or two placed on the top of a pan of simmering Field Peas, Baby Limas or Speckled Butterbeans- makes the broth thicker with a distinct flavor that cannot be achieved by any other means. South Carolina touts Okra Soup- a comfort food for them, associated with being home… A friend who is an only child– (this is an important point)- had one grandmother who would fry up a mess of okra, put it in a large bowl and he would eat it like popcorn! Many have actually dubbed Fried Okra as Southern Popcorn. IMG_3320

The most difficult part of making Fried Okra is having enough fried okra to begin with, then actually getting a full platter to the table! Folks will actually stand in the kitchen while it’s frying and eat it right as it’s being pulled out of the hot grease! So, rule 1- Don’t let anyone in the kitchen when you’re frying Okra!

I believe the very best Okra is no longer than the average size pinky finger in length. *If it is longer, discard or cut the bottom part as larger Okra can be woody and tough.  And the quicker you fry it after it’s picked the better it will be!

Everyone has their own method of frying Okra, always in hot grease; How to bread or batter Okra before frying can be debated. All I can say is that I don’t like a heavy batter on Okra as it can get soggy. Actually, I don’t batter Okra at all, I don’t flour it, I don’t just dust it with cornmeal– I whisk a bit of salt with 1/3 part Corn Starch to 2/3 part Self Rising Cornmeal, soft grind and white meal. *Using Corn Starch is my grandmother’s secret! It makes Fried Okra stay crisp longer! IMG_3305

Camellia’s Cottage Fried Okra

  • Buy the freshest small Okra pods you can find.
  • To prepare Okra:  Cut the pods of Okra in 1/4″ to 1/2″ pieces
  • Dredge them in the Cornmeal/Corn Starch ( 1/3 part Corn Starch/ 2/3 part Cornmeal and pinch of Salt Mixture) immediately.
  • Don’t make the mistake of cutting the okra, salting it in prep time and letting it sit before dredging it in your choice of a Cornmeal Batter or dusting it in the Meal Mix
  • *Salt and Time cause the Okra to weep slimy tears!
  • Some say and I believe it- if you refrain from cutting the tops off of the Okra Pods and instead cut okra slices from the end of the pod toward the top- then discard the tops, there is less chance of weeping. IMG_3318
  • Fry the cut and dusted Okra in Hot Oil, Shortening or even Lard which is at least one inch deep in a Cast Iron Pan until golden brown and crispy (Okra doesn’t like to be crowded or it won’t be crispy! So plan to fry in small batches.
  • Drain on paper towels or even better a brown paper bag!
  • Season with additional Salt before serving as Hot as possible!

Now, if you want to make sure you have enough for folks to enjoy, buy lots of Okra at the Farmer’s Market!  Allow a whopping 1-2 lbs per person! *Any leftover Corn Meal Mixture and a few pods of Okra- add a whisked egg and a bit of water or milk and thinly sliced okra to make a loose batter which will in turn make wonderful Okra Patties! IMG_3322

You may be wondering what we eat with Fried Okra, the answer is actually everything… a few months ago, one of my dearest friends and I ate at a BBQ dive which also serves our beloved Southern Vegetable Plates! When I ordered my BBQ sandwich, my ‘choose any side’ was Fried Okra!

  • Oh yum, BBQ plates with cool slaw, fried okra and baked beans- wonderful combo!
  • Fried Okra is a wonderful addition to an all Vegetable Plate- Fresh Field Peas, Macaroni and Cheese and Sliced Summer Tomatoes.
  • Fried Okra is unexpected when tossed on top of Soup, Gumbo or Salad instead of Croutons! Fried Okra also makes a wonderful topping for Shrimp and Grits
  • A side of Fried Okra is  great with Chicken and Dumplings.  Alongside Meat Loaf, Pork Chops or Country Fried Steak with Gravy and Rice, Fried Okra is perfect!

In fact Fried Okra elevates any meal to a Southern Specialty! If you go to the Farmer’s Market this weekend, get some fresh Okra for Sunday Supper! Fried Okra, Country Ham, Butterbeans, yes Ma’am!

Love y’all, Camellia

Please join Camellia’s Cottage in praying for the residents and emergency workers of entire Coastal and Lower South which may be affected by Hurricane Harvey. * Fried Okra, Country Ham…is a play on a famous fraternity ditty *All photographs are obviously mine! *I use Argo Corn Starch but this is not a paid advertisement for the brand

Annual Mother’s Day at Peach Park…

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Well, I hope y’all had a Happy Mother’s Day. We met the kids on their way back from beach at the Peach Park in Clanton. Chilton County Peaches are well known- they aren’t ripe yet- but this combination of farmer’s market and restaurant includes sandwiches and cobblers, fried pies and homemade ice cream almost all year round. It is a favorite stop for those on their way to or from the Alabama Beaches. image

We drive the back way, on rural county roads. I amuse myself by writing down names of places, church signs, businesses and the sights of the countryside. This year, I noticed that every Dollar General we passed had folks boiling out-probably pickin’ up a card, gift or supplies for Mother’s Day. Near Beaver’s Collison and Auto Body Shop, a wooden floor had been set up, I said, ‘family reunion’…he said, ‘tent revival’ – in the rear view mirror I said he was right since there was a big white van with Independent Holiness Church on the side. Down the road a bit was a cemetery. A family was having a ‘flag ceremony’ for their loved one. There was a full size American flag and a full size Crimson flag with a big white Alabama ‘A’ on it. A good sized group was standing around. This is the South, folks like to personalize their funerals. This is Alabama where folks love God, country, their mommas and take a firm stand on football- Auburn or Alabama. image

I began to sing -‘When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll…Tide!’ He cut his eyes over to me- I said ‘well, that’s how we sang it at Campus Crusade meetings when I was at Alabama’.  I saw a church sign which said ‘Have an Epic Mother’s Day’ …am still wondering what that would entail.  It has been said that a mother loves the black sheep of the family the most. I thought about that when we cruised at 25 miles per hour through a small town, past the city hall – several people were milling around the parking lot by the jail. A pickup truck had the tailgate down with a picnic going on- men and women in tank tops sporting tattoos alongside men with short sleeved shirts and ties, seemed to be having a good time. There were women sitting in the back seats of sensible sedans. I wondered if momma was brought over to the jail to visit the black sheep or if it was momma they were visiting. Either way, you can mark it down that her knees were worn out from praying for that bunch. Out front of the Farmer’s Co-Op there was a sign that said- ‘Onion Sets, Seed Taters, Mater Cages’- the owner is a clown. A truck farmer was setting up shop with some good looking spring Vidalia Onions with thick green tops. Past fallow farmlands that would soon be sprouting cotton or stands of corn, we saw a hand lettered sign- ‘Gourds for Sale’ – Get those now! put ’em up for the purple martins! keep the skeeters away! – is what I always think.

We passed a sale lot filled with new tractors and backhoes and a cute shop called ‘bulbs.sprig.birds.chirp.’ – and a beauty shop called ‘Shear Elegance’- probably worked overtime on some epic Mother’s Day hairdos; another church sign- this one said ‘God plus one is a majority’ – I actually think God is a majority all by Himself. We were listening to music on Garrison Keiller’s Prairie Home Companion- folks singing ‘wicked path of sin’ songs. We decided to stop and use the facilities at a gas station. I heard a woman checking out say- ‘We picked up the chicken and biscuits, stopped at the grocery store, got the cake, then we called Rusty, he had just gotten up, stayed out all night and was sleepin’ it off’…yes, ‘wicked path of sin’ songs were in order. Right across the interstate from the gas station was the big water tank painted to look just like the biggest peach you ever saw! Two more exits down, ‘which way?’ – we were behind a car with a specialty tag that read- GoneWTW- I said ‘go left’. When we got to the Peach Park, we pulled in, got a good parking place, folks were sitting in the big rocking chairs, or bringing out boxes of fried pies and barbeque, one couple had bought a gallon of peach ice cream- probably to take up to momma’s. A big man and a little woman came out with big bowls of ice cream- she slid daintily onto a picnic bench, he hiked his leg over the bench as it groaned- ‘um baby, this sure does look good, don’t it?’. Our children were already there- I wanted to say- ‘um baby, they sure look good, don’t they?’ We ate our share of the bounty, I took some pictures of past Peach Queens- which line the walls.

For my gifts-the kids brought me a quart of gumbo from Doc’s Seafood Shack in Orange Beach, two boxes of Peeps and a mug with ‘Mom’ on the side and ‘love’ on the inside-exactly what I wanted. I almost cried.image

When they got in the car to leave I wondered if they knew that our hearts were travelling in the car with them. On the way home, several times my eyes filled with tears, I looked out the window often. We passed over Beeswax Creek- I sniffed big- he said ‘What is it?’ I said ‘none of your beeswax’, and got tickled. Right after we passed the ‘Red Barn Bent and Dent Grocery’ but before you get to the ‘Dixieland Trading Post’- I thought about that church sign- ‘Have an Epic Mother’s Day’; I’m still not sure what epic would entail, but any day you get to be with your children is an epic day, especially when the nest has emptied. On those days-I can honestly say, ‘It is well… it is wellwith my soul, it is well, it is wellwith…my soul! Roll Tide.

Love y’all, Camellia

  • feel free to take sides and add ‘War Eagle’…

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