Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pickled Chard Stems

I like Swiss chard - it's like two vegetables in one - the leaves have the texture of spinach, and the stems have the texture of celery. Since chard is in the beet family, it tastes like beets, but a little muted. I know people who hate beets who love chard because it doesn't have the "muddy" taste that some people find in beets.

A lot of chard recipes I've seen are all about using the leaves. The leaves cook so quickly that many recipes tell you to remove the "tough" stems and larger veins and get rid of them. Even when the stems are used, they're a second-class citizens. Maybe they're sliced thinly and added to the leaves, but they never seem to get the spotlight.

I thought it was time to change that, and decided to create a recipe just for the stems. Pickling seemed ideal. The result was interesting - the stems had the shape and texture of celery, but the flavor of pickled beets. There are a perfect, weird little pickle that will leave people guessing. They'd be great on antipasto platter or perched in a bloody Mary.

I used rainbow chard, but regular chard would work just as well. The bright stems of the rainbow chard faded quite a bit during the cooking and pickling, ending up as delicate pastels.

As for the leaves - of course I used those, too. I'm sure you'll find plenty of recipes for those.

Pickled Chard Stems

Stems and large veins from 2 bunches Swiss chard
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Trim the green leafy bits off the chard stems and cut them to a length that will fit, standing up, in a pint canning jar - 4 inches or less is perfect.

Cook the chard stems in boiling salted water (or steam them) until fork tender, but not mushy - you want them cooked through, but still a little bit crisp. Drain. put the cooked chard stems in a pint canning jar or similar container.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour over the chard stems in the jar. If there's not enough liquid to cover, add hot water. Cover the jar, let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

The chard stem pickles are ready as soon as they are chilled.

Pickled Chard Stems on Punk