Pickled Fennel Agrodolche: Storing the Season

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Pickled Fennel Agrodolche 1

This Pickled Fennel Agrodolche is an excellent small-batch vinegar pickle recipe for whatever vegetables you’ve got a bit too much of. You know the kind of situation I’m talking about.

In our veggie patch, it is time to plant the climbing tomatoes against the fence. And this means the end of the winter fennel crop must come out.

While I dearly love fennel, today I harvested a bit too much to feed it all fresh to my small family this week. Agrodolche pickle to the rescue.

Agrodolche means ‘bitter sweet’ in Italian, and it is a versatile pickling base that can be used with whatever vegetables you have in excess.

I love it because it can be made up in 5 minutes, in whatever quantities are required, and within half an hour, you are done. And the proud owner of yet another jar of pickles.

Pickled Fennel Agrodolche 6

Pickled Fennel Agrodolche 7

Pickled Fennel Agrodolche

Makes about 2 litres of pickles, give or take. Adjust amounts as necessary if you have less or more vegetables.

  • 3-4 large fennel bulbs (or 5 smallish ones), cleaned + chopped how you like to eat them
  • 2 pieces of fennel tops per jar (optional)
  • 1 litre white wine vinegar – you can use white vinegar at a pinch, or half and half
  • 1 medium brown onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sage leaves
  • 3 Tbls good quality salt
  • 3 Tbls sugar
  • 3 big pieces of lemon zest, with as little pith on them as possible
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, or a vanilla pod if you have it – optional
  • Good quality olive oil

In addition, assemble 2 litres-worth of clean, sterilized jars – they can be big or small, but consider your jar size relative to your fennel-cutting size.


Heat your vinegar on the stovetop with the onion, garlic, sugar, salt, bay and sage leaves. Meanwhile, take two fennel fronds per jar and curl them into the bottom of the jar, nest-like.

Once the vinegar mix has reached 70ºc, add the lemon zest and vanilla. Give it a bit of a stir but don’t boil it, then remove from heat.

Taste your vinegar mix – it should be bitter-sweet. You can add sugar or salt if you like to adjust – you want to end up with a mix that makes your taste buds say yum (in a super vinegar-y kind of way).

Do this next step as quick as you can, so you put the lid on while it’s all still hot

Layer the fennel with the vinegar into the jar – a handful of this, a spoonful of that. Press down on the fennel as you go.

Stop adding fennel when it is about two inches from the top of the jar mouth, and top with vinegar mix to cover. Make sure your lemon zest and herbs all made it into the jar.

Top with good quality olive oil (10mm) so that the vinegar mix and the fennel is completely covered, and seal your jar.

At this point, I would put the jar in the cupboard. The combination of clean jar and hot acidic vinegar is enough for me, and has never posed a problem in the past.

If however you don’t think this is sufficient in the sterilisation stakes, keep it in the fridge, or you could water-bath the pickle.

Wait at least four weeks before opening the jar and consuming your pickle lustily, with other delicious things that cry out for the crunch and tang of pickled fennel agrodolche…

Pickled Fennel Agrodolche 13

Pickled Fennel Agrodolche 1


– The vanilla is optional, and I know some traditional picklers (hi Mum!) would consider this addition close to scandalous.

– If you like, you can add the fennel to the vinegar mix on the stove, before you take it off – this helps raise the overall temperature of the pickle by the time you seal it.

– We love Rosnay Organic Olive Oil and buy it by the 20L tin, tapping off into a kitchen bottle as needed – an inexpensive way (once you do the math per litre) to get great quality olive oil in our house year round. Far less packaging too.

– This recipe is based on Olivier’s agrodolche recipe that we shared a few years ago – thanks, Liv!


Pickled Fennel Agrodolche 14

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One response to “Pickled Fennel Agrodolche: Storing the Season

  1. thank you for this recipe – i can’t wait to give it try. one question: what is the role of the oil? can it be omitted during the process but added with the pickle when it is ready to be eaten?

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