Fennel has wonderful versatility. It provides a delicate and subtle anise-like sweetness, and every part of the plant has culinary use: The root/bulb, stalks, fronds, flowers and seeds all have a role to play in fennel recipes.
In general, I find that the sugar-content and tenderness of fennel decreases as you go higher on the plant, while the anise-like sweet-spice flavor increases from bottom to top. To me, this generally means
“use the bulb and lower, tender and younger stalks like a vegetable; use the higher stalks, fronds, flowers and seeds like herbs and spices”
Recently, I applied this principle using the Saueressen Process to create a fennel-spiced Sauerchi. I used about a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of fennel to red cabbage by weight. I chose turmeric due to its subtle earthy flavor to complement and enhance the fennel without overpowering fennel’s relatively delicate flavor. I relied mostly on the fennel for the pesto, using just enough onion to smooth out the texture.
Recipe: Fennel-Turmeric Sauerchi
- Brine the base ingredients:
- Shred and salt the red cabbage to prep it for the self-brine.
- Separate out the fennel bulb from the rest of the plant. Shred it like you would cabbage, and mix it with the cabbage.
- Cover, weight and self-brine the fennel bulb-cabbage mixture for 24-48 hours, until the salt seems equally distributed throughout the brine.
- Sometime after step #1 above and #3 below, make the fennel pesto:
- Chop the fennel stalks and fronds perpendicular to the grain (so you don’t get something stringy and fibrous) into small chunks, no longer than 1″ (the shorter the better).
- Food process a generous amount of fennel seed with an onion base. The onion provides additional sweetness and protection for the ferment, and it improves the texture of the pesto.
- Add the chopped fennel fronds and stalks to the onion-seed mixture and continue processing into a thick paste.
- Mix with turmeric, cover and set aside.
- Drain the brine from the base ingredients, mix with the pesto, and crock the Sauerchi.
While I never know how something’s going to turn out, I always strive to produce amazing flavors and combinations on the way in. My first thought in tasting this recipe was, “I don’t want to share this with others!” Always a good sign. I should have approximately three gallons of this recipe available this winter. And, yes, I plan to share it with others!