Pickled Chard Stems

Yesterday I scored a ridiculous amount of Spring bounty at the farmer’s market: asparagus and rhubarb, yes, but also ramps & fiddleheads, rainbow chard & curly kale, scallions, parsley & cilantro, two kinds of radishes (and of course the usual potatoes, onions and carrots). In addition to all that, thanks to Madura Farms’ greenhouses, I picked up the first Kirby cucumbers of the year, not to mention eggs, bread, butter, pork shoulder and sausage. Phew!  I could barely stuff it all into the fridge yesterday afternoon (thank goodness for 2-gallon Ziplocs!) so I decided that today was destined to be not a Day of Rest, but a Day of Preserving: Preservapalooza Sunday was born.

The kale was blanched, shocked and frozen: perfect timing as we just used up the last bag of frozen kale on Thursday night.  Four pounds of Kirby cucumbers were scrubbed, trimmed and submerged in brine in the big, red pickling bowl to ferment: Tai will be thrilled to have some of my Garlicky Dill Pickles again.  Asparagus was blanched, shocked & trimmed: the tip halves were pickled while the stem halves were sliced & frozen.  The bright pink stems of the monster rainbow chard I brought home were far too gorgeous to discard, hence I Googled around for pickled chard recipes and found this one, from the Gramercy Tavern, published only a couple of weeks ago in the NY Times.

The recipe is for a quick refrigerator pickle and if there was currently any room in the fridge, that is probably what I would do, as my monster chard netted me 1 pint of pickles.  I used the same brine to pickle a pint of asparagus, however, and processed them both in a boiling water bath for pantry storage.  I did futz with the recipe a bit: upping the spices, lowering the sugar, etc. I’ll let these marinate for a couple of weeks and then report back on the taste.

Preserving season is here!  Next up: rhubarb? Radishes? Ramps? Oh, my!

Adapted from Pickled Chard Stems by Gramercy Tavern’s Michael Anthony

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Pickled Chard Stems

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large bunches chard stems (leaves removed)
  • 1 cup rice wine vinegar (at least 5% acidity if canning)
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar (at least 5% acidity if canning)
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp pickling salt
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorn
  • 1/4 tsp yellow mustard seed

METHODS

  1. If canning, prepare canner, jars and lids.
  2. Scrub chard stems, trim the ends, and slice any bits of leaf off of the edges with a sharp knife.  Slice into batons, the height of your jar minus 1/2-inch for headspace (line one measured baton up on your cutting board to use as a template). Slice larger stems in half, or in thirds, lengthwise, if needed, such that each pickle is approximately the same size.
  3. Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.
  4. Stack chard stems into hot, sterilzed jars and cover with brine, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rim, affix lid and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (alternatively, you can store these pickles in the fridge for about 1 month).

Yields about 2 pints pickles.

OPTIONS

  1. The original recipe called for 1 and 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar; I ran out, so substituted 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Feel free to use all rice wine vinegar; double-check, however, that it is at least 5% acidity if you plan on canning.
  2. I also cut the sugar in half and increased the salt by 1/2 tbsp from the original recipe; just because I’m a salty girl.
  3. This is a great easy pickle for when you have a monster bunch of chard and don’t want to simply discard the stems. Don’t feel you have to bust out the canner and water-bath process; these will keep in the fridge for some time. If you decide not to process, a quick blanche & shock of the chard stems prior to jarring may extend your refrigerated shelf-life.

STORE

If canned, store at cool room temperature, away from light, for up to 1 year.  If refrigerated, use within 1  month.

SEASON

Chard likes cool, crisp weather, so most farmers plant at least two crops yearly: spring and fall.

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26 comments

  1. girl, you is crazy! good for you! i was so excited about the first farmer’s market of the season on saturday. but it was sooo cold and rainy, i couldn’t get myself out the door.

    your photos and these chard stems look scrumptious!

  2. Jim McNulty

    With respect to chard stems, fancy restaurants in the Los Angeles area serve a high end dish of nothing except chard stems which many Asians consider a delicacy.
    Not a trace of green leaves anywhere in this dish. They used the large white stems cooked in a thickened clear sauce.
    Naturally, I cannot remember the name of it. A man from Taiwan ordered it for us/me.
    Pickled they look great.
    I always eat them as they cook to so tender that I find the stems a treat and would never throw them in the compost pile.
    Jim in So Calif

  3. Wow, so I am not the only one with Spring Fever! I can’t tell you how excited I am about the pickled chard. I have been cooking up a ton of chard and tossing the stems to the chickens, who happily gobble them up, but I’d much rather turn them into something delicious! Your pics look beautiful. Preservapalooza Sunday! I love it.

  4. Janet in NC

    I have to say, I have never heard of anyone discarding chard stems before! They take just a smidgeon longer to cook than the greens, I toss the sliced stems into the saute pan first, then the leafy green a few minutes after. In a soup pot, it just all goes in. Throwing them away! How wasteful!

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  6. Definitely have to try this. I have two big bunches of chard so hopefully that’s enough. (I am never sure how big a “bunch” is in a recipe, one bunch never seems to yield enough, stem-wise). Don’t think I have any rice vinegar. Is there something you’d suggest I substitute? I am not sure I’ve ever had rice vinegar so I can’t even imagine the flavor profile. I have cider and wine vinegars around. I’m going to refridgerate so no worries on acidity.

  7. Hi Sara,

    I usually try to be specific in terms of the amount of ingredients (I’m a big fan of weights) but here, it doesn’t really matter; you just need enough to fill some jars. Slice them into long batons first, then find a jar or jars that will fit them reasonably tightly, then trim length if needed.

    As for the rice vinegar; it is really just to give these a bit of Asian flavor. I would suggest maybe half cider: half white vinegar, or 100% white wine vinegar, then maybe add a tablespoon or two of soy sauce for Asian flair.

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  18. kathykarch

    Nice blog. Will be following now that I’ve found you. Always looking for new things to do with the massive amount of produce we generate in our quest for food self-sufficiency. Thanks!!

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