Quick Pickled Fennel

If it sits still long enough, I’m bound to use this quick pickling technique on most anything it seems. It works beautifully with fennel, giving a sweet and sour taste that is reminiscent of a mild sauerkraut. Simple, quick, and versatile. Use it to top a salad, or put it in sandwiches. It’s great on grilled fish or roast pork as well. If you heat it up it can be used like sauerkraut with sausages and potatoes. Use it for topping Swedish crispbread with coarse mustard and pâté and crispbread with labne and smoked salmon. The fennel/licorice flavor is enhanced with a pinch of fennel seeds, but it is not “in your face” fennel/licorice flavor. This is one of those times when you’d like to use your fixed blade slicer.

1 fennel bulb, stalks and fronds removed (and reserved for something like fennel broth or oil)
Salt as needed-around a ½ tablespoon
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup rice vinegar
1/8 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed or powdered

Put the sugar and vinegar into a jar with a tight seal and shake like mad until the sugar dissolves, or put the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Add the fennel seeds to the solution and vigorously shake/whisk until the solution starts to taste of fennel seeds.

Split the fennel bulb through the root and trim away most of the core. Using a fixed blade slicer or very sharp, longer knife, slice the bulb across the width very thinly-1/8th inch or thinner.

Put the fennel into a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle lightly with the salt, tossing with the fingers to get the salt all over the fennel. Use just enough salt to get all of the fennel. Toss to separate all the slices of fennel and work the salt in a little. You should feel the slices begin to wilt a little. Set aside for 8 minutes.

After 8 minutes, place the fennel into a strainer and rinse. Set the strainer into a bowl just smaller than the strainer and fill it with water, swishing the strainer with the fennel in it around in the water. Use the fingers to work the fennel, getting all the salt off. Drain and refill, then repeat for three times total. Taste the fennel-there should be no salt remaining on the outside, and the flavor should not be overly salty either. A little saltiness is okay. Transfer to the pickling solution and submerge the fennel.

The fennel should be ready to use within 10-15 minutes. Store in the refrigerator, it will keep for 4-5 days.

Chef’s Notes:
If you want to bump up the fennel flavor, add a few drops of pastis to the solution, or other fennel/licorice flavored liqueur. You could also toast a few fennel seeds to go with the un-toasted ones already used, or you could add a few anise seeds to round out the flavor profile. You could add herbs that that are complementary to fennel as well, such as tarragon or lavender.

YIELD: 1-2 cups fennel quickles

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