This quick pickled fennel with orange and star anise will brighten up a summer barbecue no end. If you plan a camping trip, consider packing some of this to freshen up your campfire fodder with no fuss. A jar of pickled veg is nicely compact and by its very nature, ready to go.
I’d love to say that this is an old family recipe that reminds me of the long summer evenings of my schooldays, but it’s not… yet. It has a little family vibe to it because I learnt about quick pickling from my gran. If you’re impatient, as I am, then waiting for a pickle to mellow over weeks can be a bit of a bore. With quick pickling, you heat up the vinegar and pour over the veg. When the pickle is cool, it’s ready to go, although the flavours will pleasingly soften given a little time, even just a couple of days. Eat away or keep in the fridge at snacking intervals.
You can speed up the brining by blanching the fennel in salted water, but as an idle cook I find leaving it to steep quietly overnight is a more chilled alternative. Brining helps draw out liquid, enabling you to squeeze more veg into the jar, it also helps the fennel remain a bit crunchy, which is to my mind, one of this distinctive vegetable’s key virtues.
Choose the freshest, smallest fennel bulbs you can find for pickling. This makes a perfect accompaniment to smoked and cured meats or barbecued oily fish.
This recipe makes enough for one 1 litre Kilner jar.