Fennel polarizes. For myself, I love it. As a raw salad, freshly sautéed with a drizzle of olive oil, as a quick casserole, and fermented fennel is, of course, at the top of my list. It's especially good as a side dish for barbecues, for example as this fruity, fermented fennel relish. BBQ is, after all, seasonal for most people, as is fermenting. Fresh fennel bulbs are available, just in time for the outdoor season, from early summer through fall. You'll recognize them by the generous amount of the tasty, bright green fennel fronds that are absent in winter. And because this relish is a short-term ferment, processing and consumption go together seasonally just fine.
What is fermented fennel relish?
Relish has its origins in Indian cuisine and is a seasoning sauce made from sweet and sour pickled, finely chopped vegetables and fruit. The variety of relishes is almost unlimited. Unlike chutney, relishes are not thickened and still contain fine pieces of vegetables or fruit.
Fermented relish does not require the addition of vinegar and gets its fine acidity from the transformation process of lactic acid bacteria. The berries used bring another slight nuance of acidity, as well as a touch of sweetness to this ferment.
The ingredients will fit in a 0.75-liter jar if you work with weights.
- 1 large fennel bulb, approx. 200 gr.
- ½ white onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tbsp goji berries *
- 2 tbsp cranberries *
- ½ fresh red chilli
- 1 tsp whole mustard seed
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 3% salt
- chopped fennel fronds
- water for topping up
* alternatively you can also take raisins or barberries
Cut off the very outer, dry tips of the fennel. Trim off all the fronds and chop finely. Peel the onion and finely slice half of it with a mandoline on the finest setting. With the leftover half cook or ferment something else with. Finely chop the garlic clove, halve or quarter the fennel and also slice on the finest setting of the slicer. Cut the chili in very fine rings. Weigh all of this and sprinkle with 3% salt of the weight. Toss in the berries. If figuring out the salinity gives you a headache, feel free to use my salt calculator to help. The berries will rehydrate in the fermentation process and grow in size. If you don't like that, you can chop them smaller ahead of time. Roast mustard seeds and fennel seeds in a pan briefly and hot, crush coarsely in a mortar and add to the ferment.
Massage everything lightly and let stand for about 30 minutes so that the vegetables draw water. I knead fennel really very gently, because otherwise it becomes too soft for me.
Stuff everything into a bail jar. Press down vigorously while stuffing so that no oxygen pockets remain, and weigh down to prevent the small bits from floating up. If not enough brine has formed on its own, simply top up with water. The salinity will be lower, but still sufficient to provide an optimal lactofermentation environment.
The optimum filling height is 1-2 cm above the fermenting produce and 2-3 cm below the rim of the jar.
Place the glass in a dark rather than a light place and a bit warmer for the first week, at about 18° to 24° C at the most. If you have observed a perfect filling height, you do not need to worry further about the jar. If you fill jars too high, they will overflow during the fermentation process. Then you should put a plate underneath and clean the outside of the jar regularly.
Let ferment for another 2 weeks in a cooler place and then refrigerate for at least another week in the fridge or earth cellar. This balances the flavors.
Fermented fennel relish tastes fabulous sweet and sour and very delicious!
The fennel relish goes great as a side dish with grilled meat or scrambled eggs. It also impresses as a vegetarian dish, on its own or as a fruity topping served on a slice of rustic bread. And when warmed up with fresh rice, it's a quick, healthy lunch.