Midsummer … the woodland theatre at Kilruddery House’s 17th Century gardens. Could there be a more perfect setting for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? A light drizzle filtered through the woodland canopy and midges snacked on our ears as Titania and Oberon squabbled and Puck ran amok with a magic potion.
There was a smell of crushed grass and wet bark, mothballs and old attics as folk opened proper, wood-wormy, leather-strapped wicker baskets, quietly popped bubbly, or unscrewed interesting-looking/smelling/tasting flasks and jars. On that eerie, enchanted patch of damp grass, people shared… quietly… so as not to break the spell.
One jar that went home empty was a delicious fennel pickle. Sorry Shakespeare, it stole the show.
While I’m not the world’s greatest fan of either pickles or fennel, I can eat this fragrant crunchy pickle straight from the jar. It goes wonderfully with smoked mackerel pâté, white or oily fish, and it has been the secret ingredient to lift a potato salad out of the ordinary.
|About to get in a bit of a pickle...|
For 1 x 500ml jar of show-stealing pickled fennel you will need…
1 fennel bulb, washed if necessary and trimmed of any blemishes
1 slice of lemon
1 fat clove of garlic sliced into about three thick slices
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon whole mustard seeds
½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
350mls white vinegar
150ml cold water
2 tablespoons each of sugar and salt
|Slice as finely as you can...|
Slice the fennel bulb as finely as you can then pack it into a wide-mouthed 500ml jar leaving about 2cm clear at the top. Tuck the lemon, garlic and bay leaf down the side
|Pack into a wide-mouthed jar...|
Place the peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a dry medium saucepan over a medium heat. When the seeds begin to pop add the rest of the ingredients.
|Peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds... the supporting actors...|
Simmer until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
Carefully pour the hot liquid over the contents of the jar until everything is submerged. Poke with a skewer or chopstick to remove any bubbles of air that have become trapped before topping up the liquid if necessary. You’ll have a bit of the pickling liquid left over. Keep it in a non-reactive container and use it to make quick cucumber pickles.
Get rid of any air bubbles...
I usually leave the pickle in the fridge for at least three days before using to allow the flavours to develop (Alchemy...) and it will keep for up to a month, covered and refrigerated.
|Alchemy at work...|