Place un-cut okra pods in a bowl of cold water. Place 1 to 2 cups plain white cornmeal (not self-rising) in a plastic bag. Drain and discard tip and stem end of okra pod. Slice into 1/4-inch slices directly into the cornmeal. Shake bag often to coat each piece well. Depending on the amount of okra you are preparing, start 1/3 to 1/2 cup shortening to melt in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. When all the okra is well coated with cornmeal, place in a sieve and shake gently to remove excess cornmeal.
Test the pan for correct heat by placing 1 slice of okra in the hot shortening. If it sizzles, the pan is hot enough. Place the remaining okra into the skillet. Cover the skillet. Allow the okra to fry 3 to 5 minutes. Uncover and turn gently. Cover and continue to fry, checking and turning as needed until okra is quite brown and very crisp. Salt to taste. Place 2 or 3 crumpled paper towels in a serving bowl. Remove okra to towels and allow to drain well.