How do I Freeze or Preserve Fennel Bulbs?

Q.I have grown my own bulbed fennel. How to I go about freezing /preserving them?

(Mrs Wendy Taylor-Luxton, 2 October 2008)

A.This is a great question! We have also sown a bed of Florence fennel, and it’s just starting to swell up ready for autumn.

To freeze the bulbs, pick them while they are small – older bulbs can become tough and chewy, especially after defrosting. Take off the outer layers, which will also be tough. Chop the bulb into slices or chunks, however you prefer to eat it, and then blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds before draining and steam-drying. Pack into portion-sized freezer bags, label, cool and freeze.

If you do have older bulbs, don’t discard them – they can still be frozen and used for soup, such as a creamy Fennel and Almond soup (topped with cream and flaked almonds, to make a lovely light appetiser at Christmas time), a braise or gratin (see below). As for the fronds, they can be chopped and frozen in ice-cube trays (covered with water) to add flavour to stews and soups all season long.

You can also pickle fennel. It’s an essential ingredient in an antipasto plate, which makes a great starter for winter celebrations. There are numerous recipes available online, including a good one from Martha Stewart. To keep the fennel’s crisp texture, salt it and leave overnight before rinsing and drying, then pickling. We have seen an interesting recipe (The Joy of Pickling) that features half vinegar, half orange juice, to give the fennel a fresh flavour.

Recipe: Fennel and Tomato Gratin

3 large bulbs fennel, sliced

1 clove garlic, sliced

2 large tomatoes, sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup stock made from Marigold Bouillon

1 slice bread

1 tbsp finely grated parmesan.

To make:

  1. Warm the oil in a shallow pan and arrange the sliced fennel in one layer.
  2. Cover and leave 10 minutes before adding the garlic.
  3. Stir gently, then rearrange the fennel and cover with a layer of tomatoes.
  4. Season and pour over the stock, then cover the pan and simmer on the lowest heat for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, chop the bread into breadcrumbs, grate the parmesan, and combine.
  6. Now tip the fennel and tomato mixture into a baking dish, cover with breadcrumbs, and bake in a medium oven (160 degrees C) for 20 minutes.

Serve with roasted red potatoes and salad.

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