Fennel is tasty raw, braised or grilled. If you simply have too much of this bulb-shaped vegetable, can it with some apple cider vinegar and a spicy pepper for an uplifting, zingy relish to enjoy later.
Yield: 6 pints
6 pint jars with lids and bands
4 medium-sized fennel bulbs
2 large white or yellow onions
2 red bell peppers
1 cup kosher salt
1 quart apple cider vinegar
½ quart water
6 cups sugar
¾ tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
¾ tablespoon coriander seeds.
2 teaspoons celery seed
1 small hot pepper
Trim the tops and a bit of the root end off the fennel to leave an oblong bulb. Save the trimmings for vegetable stock. Cut the fennel bulb in half and remove the base of the core if it is large, because this part can be very fibrous. Make sure there is no soil left between the layers of the bulb. Use a chef’s knife, mandolin or food processor with a slicing attachment to slice the bulb very thinly—1/8-inch slices or thinner are best. Slice the onion and red bell peppers into 1/8- inch slivers as well.
Mix the cut vegetables in a bowl and add the kosher salt. Let the vegetables rest at room temperature for 3–4 hours. This will draw moisture from the vegetables and soften them.
While the vegetables are salting, prepare a pickling liquid using the apple cider vinegar, water, sugar and spices. Mix them in a medium- sized pot and bring them to a boil, and then turn off the heat to steep for 10 minutes.
Strain out the spices using a wire mesh strainer. Alternatively, put the spices in a cloth bag before adding them to the brine liquid, and then remove the bag when finished.
Rinse the vegetables very well and press excess moisture out of them. Finely mince the hot pepper, seeds included, and add it to the vegetables.
Pack the vegetables in the jars. Return the brine to a boil and fill the jars with the hot liquid. Leave ½ inch headspace in the jar.
Process the jars submerged in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes.
If you don’t want to can the relish, let it soak in the refrigerator a few days, and then it will be ready to use. Try it with hot dogs, add it to wheat berry salad or mix it in with cooked beans and corn. Once processed, you can store it for a year on the shelf.
Brent Wasser is interested in the processes by which plants and animals become food. He manages the Sustainable Food & Agriculture Program at Williams College.