I feel like I’ve been quite obsessed with fennel this year. With each trip to the grocery store, I find myself standing above the fennel section admiring their curvaceous white bulbs and often lofty stalks adorned with fresh, fragrant fronds. Seriously… who could resist? I also thoroughly enjoy prepping fennel. With each slice of the knife, a crisp, clean hit of licorice wafts up from the cutting board. Unfortunately, fennel seems to be quite the controversial vegetable. Fennel is often described as having a black licorice flavor. A flavor people usually love or hate. While fennel does have a licorice flavor, it is nothing like the strong, offensive licorice taste experienced when eating one of those vile, multicolored grannie candies. Fennel has a light, herbal licorice flavor that can be enjoyed sweet, savory, cooked or raw. Try caramelizing fennel and using as a pizza topping (here is an image of a recently made white pizza with caramelized shallots and fennel). Sliced fennel can be added to most salads and chopped fennel fronds can provide a fresh note to your favorite summer sides. This recipe for Fennel Infused Vodka features two fennel bulbs steeped for several days in vodka. The resulting infusion can be enjoyed in many ways, but my favorite is on the rocks with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dab of simple syrup. Continue reading for the recipe.
Fennel Infused Vodka
2 fennel bulbs (with fronds)
1 1.75 liter bottle good quality vodka
Cut fennel stalks and fronds from the bulbs. Wrap stalks and fronds in a damp paper towel and store in the refrigerator. Quarter fennel bulbs then place in a large, airtight jar. Add the vodka, seal the jar and let steep for 5 days in a cool, dark spot. On day 3, take the stalks and fronds the refrigerator. Trim fronds from the stalks and add to the jar with vodka and bulbs. Discard stalks. Reseal the jar and shake.*
Strain the vodka into a clean jar or bottle through a fine mesh basket strainer lined with a layer of cheesecloth.** Discard solids.
Makes 1.75 liters.
* The fennel fronds should only remain in the vodka for a few days. Once they lose their color (turn from vibrant green to dull green), strain your infusion. I tasted the vodka once before adding the fronds and then each day after to make sure the flavor was good.
** You want to be certain that you strain out all of the solid materials from the vodka. Any leftover particles will breakdown over time and have an adverse affect on the taste. You should strain our the vodka with a fine-mesh basket strainer or a coffee filter (or both if you are worried!). Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 months.