Fennel and Orange Pickle

This light and tangy fennel and orange pickle recipe from The Modern Preserver cookbook is a perfect match with fish, the natural aniseed flavour from the fennel complementing the meat perfectly.

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The beautiful thing about fennel is that it can be used ‘nose to tail’. You can use the stalks and leaves as a herb, the seeds as a spice, and the bulb as a vegetable. It is characterised by its strong aniseed flavour and this recipe celebrates that by matching it with the notes of orange. This is a delight when served with a whole fish, wrapped in foil and baked. Try it with plaice, gurnard or haddock.

Makes 3 x 300ml jars or 1 x 1 litre jar


3 fennel bulbs
4 bird’s-eye chillies
400ml cider vinegar
150ml water
50g golden granulated sugar
2 oranges, zest only
½ lemon, zest only
1 ½ tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 ½ tsp sea salt
8-10 fennel leaves (reserved from fennel above)


Prepare the fennel bulbs by topping and tailing them, cutting off the stalks and keeping some leaves for garnish. Finely slice the bulbs, either with a mandoline or sharp knife. Finely chop (and deseed if you like) the chillies.

Combine all the remaining ingredients (including the chopped chillies), except any reserved fennel leaves, in a medium, stainless steel pan and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the spices have infused.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.

Tightly pack the fennel slices into warm, dry sterilised jars 1 cm from the rim then gently tap the jars to remove any air bubbles. Top up with brine if necessary.

Add a couple of the reserved fennel leaves to each jar and seal.

Can be eaten within a few days or store sealed in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks to marinate.

Keeps for up to 4-6 months unopened. Once opened, keep in the fridge and eat within 4 weeks.

Season: spring to early autumn

How to Eat: with a mozzarella or burrata salad or serve as a condiment with whole steamed white fish.

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