Pickled fennel


  • 2 cups white vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 blade of mace (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste, optional
  • 2 or 3 small, tender fennel bulbs*


Adapted from Mrs Beeton’sBook of household management (1861), this pickle, which Beeton attests is a ‘very Simple Method, and exceedingly Good’ is delicious with tasty cheddar cheese, white-fleshed fish, and pork and fennel sausages, and adds crunch to shredded pork sliders, using a good splash of the pickling vinegar for piquancy.

For instructions for sterilising glass preserving jars, click here
You will need sterilised preserving jars tall enough to hold the fennel. This recipe makes approximately 1L of pickling liquid; prepare extra vinegar solution to fill the jar if necessary.


Heat the vinegar, spices, bay leaves, salt and sugar (if using) with 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for five minutes. Allow the mixture to steep for a few hours or overnight.
When ready to bottle the fennel, measure the prepared vinegar solution. Ideally you will have 2 cups – top up with boiling water if necessary. Return the solution to the boil and simmer for a minute or so, cover the saucepan and keep hot.

Meanwhile, wash the fennel bulbs and trim off the green stalks, reserving some of the leafy fronds. Slice the bulbs in half from top to bottom (ie, lengthwise) and then each half into two or three pieces, depending on their size. Leave the cores if they are tender or trim off if tough. Pack the fennel and some of the leafy fronds into sterilised preserving jars, keeping the pieces below the fill line. Remove the spices and bay leaves from the pickling solution and divide them equally between the jars. Shake the jars to distribute the spices and bay leaves through the fennel pieces.

Pour the hot pickling solution into the jars to the fill line, ensuring the fennel pieces are covered. (If the liquid does not cover the fennel, boil additional vinegar and water: one part vinegar to a quarter part water.)
*If you are using larger fennel bulbs, remove the thick outer layers keeping them for another use, and pickle the inner layers. alternatively, slice the bulb finely and pickle to slices, packed firmly into the jar.
*COOK'S TIP: If you are using large fennel bulbs, remove the thick outer layers, keeping them for another use, and pickle the inner layers. Alternatively, slice the whole bulb finely and pickle the slices, packing them firmly into the jar.

This recipe appeared in the post Pantry pickles on December 03, 2015.

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