A couple of years ago, my cousin bought an old run-down house in Berlin, which he has since renovated. He still talks about the treasure trove of history he discovered in an underground cellar. Invariably the cellar was used as a safe house or bunker during the war years.
Upon closer inspection he discovered a slice of perfectly preserved history. Crudely built shelving contained rows and rows of jars and bottles of pickled and preserved fruits, fish and vegetables, ranging from sauerkraut, cherries, tomatoes, dill pickles, herrings, onions and apple and strawberry jams.
My cousinís story is a poignant part of my journey in pickling and preserving my favourite ingredients. My first foray, Pickled Asparagus; was greatly satisfying and therefore a total success in my eyes.
My thoughts turned to another favourite ingredient Ė fennel. I used the same pickling technique but added a few different herbs and spices to the mixture.
Iím far from needing to pickle food via the necessity of war, but I do wonder if that Berlin family who had inadvertently pickled their way into my cousinís life were as proud and satisfied with their yields as I am of mine.
Pickled Fennel - an exercise in preserving one of my favourite ingredients.
Ingredients 1 Large Fennel
600ml White Wine Vinegar
300g Brown Sugar
150g Table Salt
2 Teaspoons of Brown Mustard Seeds
2 Teaspoons of Yellow Mustard Seeds
2 Teaspoons Fennel Seeds
Ĺ Teaspoon Chilli
3 x 425g Sterilised Jars
Thinly slice the fennel.
Thinly slice the fennel, make sure to include the stalks and seeds.
Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, mustard and fennel seeds into a large pot and bring to the boil.
Combine all the ingredients (except the fennel) to make the pickling fluid.
Add the fennel to the vinegar mixture.
Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 3-4 minutes. Do not over cook as you still want the fennel to retain its crunchy texture.
Add the fennel to the vinegar mix and simmer for a couple of minutes being careful not to overcook the fennel.
Remove the partially cooked fennel from the pot and pack into jars. Do NOT discard the liquid.
Remove the partially cooked fennel from the pickling fluid.
Cover the fennel with the hot vinegar and fill the jar leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace.
Pack the sterilised jars with the partially cooked fennel, leaving 1/2 an inch of headspace.
Release any air bubbles by inserting the blade of a knife into the jar. Wipe the jars of any excess liquid and seal the lids tightly shut.
Cover the fennel with the hot vinegar, releasing any air bubbles by inserting the blade of a knife into each jar.
Place the jars into boiling water for 30-minutes to complete the preservation process. Remove and allow to cool then store in a dry place.
Notes The fennel is best eaten after a few days have passed and are good for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.
Add pickled fennel to your antipasto platter or simply serve with some cheese and warm crusty bread. Donít forget the wine !
Add pickled fennel to your antipasto platter or serve with some cheese, bread and wine.