Red chard with pickled stems

I probably have this all wrong, but I don’t care. This was one of my culinary triumphs.

The challenge with chard comes from the fact that the leaves are wonderfully tender and cook in a minute or two while the stem is tougher, more earthy and requires longer cooking. Keep them attached, don’t expect a decent result.

In a fancy restaurant recently I ate the best chard I have had. I found out the chef’s secret was removing and pickling the stems and adding them back to the cooked leaves. Brilliant, I thought.

I rushed to the market, bought some chard, promptly removed the stems and… well, how the heck do you pickle a chard stem?

With dinner fast approaching (and clearly no time for sterilizing jars and all that jazz), I thought on my feet and the result I share with you here.

Perhaps I am wrong to use the word “pickle” in the recipe. But I am claiming it nonetheless. It’s as good as the restaurant’s version…

… well, almost.


  • A bunch of red chard
  • Cider vinegar (because it is what I had in my pantry)
  • Brown sugar
  • Water
  • Butter
  • Salt


  • Small saucepan
  • Big saucepan (or large frying pan)


  1. Remove the stalks from the chard.
  2. Slice them into finely (little half-moon strips across the grain, so to speak).
  3. Heat about ⅓ cup of vinegar with double the amount of water and a several heaped teaspoons of sugar (more if you like it sweeter).
  4. When the sugar has dissolved, add the chard stems.
  5. Bring to the boil and then simmer for five to ten minutes and remove from the heat. (I left the stems sitting in the liquor while it cooled.)
  6. Make sure the chard leaves are clean and dry. Cut them into strips, maybe an inch wide.
  7. Heat a big knob of butter in the pan and, when it is bubbling, add the leaves. Stir till they are all coated with butter.
  8. Add a little salt, cover and let them wilt for about a minute or two.
  9. Strain the stems and add them to the leaves along with maybe a tablespoon of the pickling liquor.
  10. Taste, season, serve (and add another knob of butter if you are feeling decadent).

What you should know

This recipe is open to experiment and suggestion. Comments required!

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