Pickled Fennel with Orange Zest
Bright and bracing, pickled fennel can be enjoyed just a day after it is canned. The orange zest and juice and the mirin highlight the vegetable’s sweet anise flavor. The fronds look attractive in the jars and on a serving plate alongside the fennel slices. Pair with fresh goat cheese.
- 4 large fennel bulbs with fronds attached, each about 1 lb.
- 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar (6 percent acidity)
- 1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice (from 3 or 4 navel oranges)
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1 Tbs. pink peppercorns
- Long, thin curls of zest from 1 navel orange, removed with a cocktail citrus zester (about 3 tsp.)
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
Have ready 3 hot, sterilized one-pint jars and their lids.
Cut off the fennel stalks just above the bulbs. Set aside 12 of the most attractive fronds; discard the remaining fronds or reserve for another use. Trim the base of each bulb and remove the outer layer if bruised. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise. Remove the outermost layer of each half and cut into strips about 3/4 inch wide. Cut the rest of the bulb lengthwise into slices 3/4 inch thick.
In a large nonreactive saucepan, combine the vinegar, orange juice and mirin. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat.
In a mortar, using a pestle, crush 1/2 Tbs. of the peppercorns. Divide the crushed pepper evenly among the jars.
Place several fennel strips in each jar. Arrange a fennel frond against the glass for visual effect. Pack the jars with the fennel slices, the orange zest curls and the remaining fronds, alternating them, to within 3/4 inch of the rims. Place 1/2 tsp. of the remaining peppercorns in each jar.
Ladle the vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove any air bubbles and adjust the headspace, if necessary. Add 1 Tbs. olive oil to each jar. Wipe the rims clean and seal tightly with the lids. Let the jars stand undisturbed for 24 hours, then store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes 3 one-pint jars.
Adapted from The Art of Preserving, by Lisa Atwood, Rebecca Courchesne & Rick Field (Weldon Owen, 2010).