By Nick Schneider
Fennel makes its appearance at the market in late June and continues to be offered through the fall when it takes on a sweeter quality. Generally fennel, because it is more toothsome, is dealt with in a couple of ways – sliced very thin and eaten raw in salads or slow cooked to soften it completely.
Here we are letting it cook lightly in a sweet and sour, sugar/vinegar mixture, which we then preserve for use in the fall and winter. These ‘petals’ or pieces of fennel make a great addition to an antipasti platter. It makes a natural pairing with cured meat products on the same platter. This agrodolce method is commonly used for small onions and some fruits, as well.
Makes 1 quart
- 2 large fennel bulbs, or 3 medium ones
- 2 fronds from the bulbs
- 3 1-inch slices of lemon zest, with all the white pith removed via a spoon
- 1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar (or the same amount of sugar with 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract added)
- 3 Tbsp salt
- 3 cups white wine vinegar
Cut the fennel bulbs into large chunks. Make them whatever size you want, but trim any edges that are very thin — and remember people will eat these by the piece, so cut accordingly.
Bring the sugar, salt and vinegar to a boil. It should be tasty. If it is too sour, you can add a little water, but not more than 1/2 cup. Add the lemon zest.
Once the canner is boiling, add the fennel pieces to the vinegar mixture, cover it and turn off the heat. Let it steep for 5 minutes.
In the clean jar, wrap the fennel fronds into the bottom so they surround it like a nest. Pack in the fennel pieces on top of the fronds; you want the fennel to come up only to the fill line on the jar (roughly the base of the neck).
Pour in the vinegar mixture slowly, rotating the jar on the countertop to release air bubbles. Pour enough to cover the fennel by at least a 1/2 inch. Use a butter knife or chopstick to remove any stray air bubbles.
Seal the jar and process in the canner (water should be between 200 degrees and boiling) for 15 minutes. Let it stand to cool on a rack.
Wait at least a week before eating.