Harvesting And Preserving Swiss Chard

Two weeks ago, during our heat wave and kitchen demolition, I managed to get outside and harvest big bunches of Swiss chard:


This is the earliest we've ever had chard, so finding a way to preserve it (other than keeping it out under a greenhouse tunnel until needed) was a new requirement for us. No matter what you're doing with Swiss chard, the first step is always to separate the leaves from the stems:


The knife isn't actually all that handy for this stage--much easier just to rip the eaves off by hand. Then I cut the stems to equal lengths.

I decided just to blanch and freeze the leaves. We ended up with six cups to use later (and you can use this exactly as you would use frozen spinach). Chard and spinach last pretty long into the winter for us, but this box in the freezer will be a little insurance:


Once the leaves were dispatched into the freezer, I could deal with the stems:


These I decided to pickle. Back in the spring I read Michael Pollan's new book Cooked, and in it he fermented some chard stems. It sounded pretty easy, and after some supplemental internet searching, I decided just to make up the seasonings and give it a try.


The nice part about this is that the chard stems are small enough to trim put directly into a quart-sized mason jar. I divided them into one jar of yellow and white stems, and another jar of pink and red stems. No reason for that except to make them pretty. I also figured I'd flavor each jar differently, and the colors would allow me to tell them apart. The yellow jar I made with an Indian-inspired spice mix; the red is a kimchi flavor. 

Indian Chard Pickles


1 quart water
1 1/2 tbs. salt
3/4 tbs. sugar
1/8 tsp. turmeric
a pinch of cinnamon
1 grape leaf (oak or horseradish will work also)
a handful of lovage leaves, torn
2 cardamom pods
2 cloves
a pinch of coriander seed

1/2 small bay leaf
4 matchsticks fresh ginger

Boil the water and stir in salt, sugar, turmeric, and cinnamon until dissolved. Place the grape leaf at the bottom of a clean, quart-sized mason jar, and add the rest of the ingredients to the jar. Pack the jar tightly with Swiss chard stems (upright), then pour the warm brine over the stems to the very top of the jar, ensuring that each one is below the surface of the water. Cover and place in a dark corner to ferment. (I used a flat lid that just lightly covered the jar so that air released during fermentation could escape.)

Kimchi Chard Pickles

1 quart water
1 1/2 tbs. salt
3/4 tbs. sugar
3/4 tsp. soy sauce
1 grape leaf
3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic, cut into matchsticks
1 tbs. fresh ginger matchsticks

Boil the water and stir in salt, sugar, and soy sauce until dissolved. Place the grape leaf at the bottom of a clean, quart-sized mason jar, and add the rest of the ingredients to the jar. Pack the jar tightly with Swiss chard stems (upright), then pour the warm brine over the stems to the very top of the jar, ensuring that each one is below the surface of the water. Cover and place in a dark corner to ferment. (I used a flat lid that just lightly covered the jar so that air released during fermentation could escape.)


In a few days, things were bubbling away--signs of fermentation!

I tasted these after a week, and decided that they should be more sour and pickledy. I like my pickles strong, so I let them continue to ferment for another week. Today I tasted them again and was satisfied, so I put a real lid on and put them away in the fridge to slow the fermentation:


They taste good (especially the kimchi!), and they are nice and crisp. It's a light, clean flavor, and I do like the texture (it's kind of like celery). 

But I must say, I'm totally disappointed that they didn't hold their color. How cool would pink and yellow pickles have been? Now they just look like regular old pickles, but with a funny shape. Nothing special to look at, that's for sure. Still, they taste good, and the variety will be nice come winter.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What to Do With an Unripe Watermelon

The Grape Trellis

Fall Flashback