Chard's juicy, crunchy leafstalks deserve to be treated as a unique ingredient entirely separate from the leafy green parts. "Swiss" chard (they don't call it that in Switzerland, by the way) contains enough natural salts that it doesn't even need a salt brine to achieve lacto-fermentation. All you need is water and chard.
You can use any variety of chard for this recipe. Rainbow chard, with its multi-hued leafstalks, makes a particularly lovely ferment, but the white-stemmed chard is fine, too. By the way, beets are the same species as chard, so if you have a bunch of beet greens, feel free to use the leafstalks in this recipe.
Use fermented chard stems as a tasty salad ingredient, naturally rich in healthy probiotics, or add them to soups and casseroles.
- 1 bunch Swiss chard (any variety)
- 2 cups water (filtered or non-chlorinated)
- Wash the chard. Slice the green, leafy parts off of the thicker leafstalks and midribs. Reserve the leafy greens for another recipe.
- Chop the chard stems crosswise into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces. Put the pieces into a clean glass jar (it is not necessary to sterilize the jar for this recipe, but it should be scrupulously clean).
- Pour non-chlorinated water over the chard pieces. Most municipal tap water is chlorinated, and the chlorination can prevent a successful fermentation. To get rid of the chlorine, you can filter the water, or simply leave it out overnight in a wide-mouthed vessel such as a pot - the chlorine will evaporate out within 12 to 24 hours.
- Fill the jar all the way to the top, then loosely screw on the lid. The lid will keep the chard pieces submerged in the liquid. Place the jar on a small plate that will catch the overflow that may occur during the fermentation. Leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Remove the lid and check for signs of fermentation. You may see some bubbles on top, and the chard should start to have a light, pleasantly sour smell (think very mild sauerkraut). If there are no signs of fermentation yet, replace the lid and wait another 24 hours. Keep checking once a day, adding non-chlorinated water if necessary to keep the jar full.
Note: Some of the chard pieces may darken slightly, especially those at the top of the jar. This does not affect their flavor.
After 1 - 4 days, transfer the jar to the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation. Fermented chard will keep, refrigerated, for at least 6 months, but is best eaten within 3 months.