We remember our Grandmother Florence always having homemade liqueurs on hand for an after-dinner drink with coffee & dessert, especially around the holidays. Our favorite was Finocchietto (fennel) which she touted as a good digestif drink. We were only allowed a sip for taste…but liked it even then.
On our trip to Italy back in 2018, we had dinner at a farm in Naples. After dinner, we had a choice of Limoncello or Finocchietto. Of course, we chose the Finocchietto and it sure did bring back good memories of Grandma.
After having great success with making our own Limoncello, I decided to send away for the Italian Wild Fennel seeds and make my own. Teresa and I along with my good friend, Jane Hall, planted the fennel seeds. We watched the seedlings grow big & strong then planted them outside in a side garden my husband Gary prepared for us. They were doing beautifully and even survived Hurricane Florence but low and behold they didn’t seem to survive the deer!!!!!!! We were pleasantly surprised the following season and proceeded to make our own liqueur. You wouldn’t believe how many umbrella flowers we had with just 2 plants that survived. This year it’s even more! Fennel has a wonderful anise-like/licorice taste and you can use the green fronds to garnish a salad or even infuse with some olive oil. I don’t remove the fennel bulb because it will cause the demise of the plant, although I may this year!
Note: Harvesting starts towards the end of June through August here in North Carolina. Fennel plants create umbrella-like flower buds similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. I pick the yellow flower umbrellas once the yellow flowers begin to open.
Ingredients for about 2 liters
- 2-3 large handfuls of wild fennel flower umbrellas. ( I fill a 32-oz mason jar 1/2 to 3/4 high with the flowers)
- 1 liter of Everclear (151 proof – grain alcohol) Please do not use rubbing alcohol!
- 800 grams of sugar (about 3 1/3 to 3 1/2 cups)
- 2-liter jar that closes hermetically (We used hermetically sealed lemonade bottles from Aldi)
- Funnel- wide mouth
- Immediately after picking the flowers, wash and let dry thoroughly on a clean dish towel.
- Place all the flowers in the jar and pour the grain alcohol into the jar, making sure all flowers are covered. Close the jar and place it in a dark place for at least 30 days. ( I use my closet)
- Keep the bottle out of direct sunlight. All the color will leach out into the alcohol turning the alcohol a green color. No problem if you leave it longer than 30 days.
- After the 30 days or longer are up, prepare the sugar syrup.
- Make a simple syrup by boiling 1 liter of water with 800 grams of sugar for 15 minutes. Let it cool before the next step. (about an hour)
- While the syrup is cooling down, filter the alcohol. Using a wide-mouth funnel, place into another mason jar and place the cheesecloth in the funnel.
- Pour the alcohol through the funnel making sure none of the fennel plants get through.
- Mix the cooled sugar syrup into the filtered alcohol. Pour into a clean 2-liter hermetically sealing jar (the one you used before is fine, just make sure it’s clean & dry first.
- Let it sit another 4-5 days in a cool, dark place.
- Now we filter again and bottle.
- Put a regular funnel in the bottle with another piece of cheesecloth and pour the mixture into the bottle or use a small ladle so it doesn’t spill everywhere.
- There might be some organic matter caught in the cheesecloth. Wash the cloth for re-use.
- In a cool dark place, store the bottled fennel for at least another 3 months. The longer it sits the clearer it gets.
Note: Wild Fennel Liqueur makes a great Wild Fenneltini!
Recipe adapted from cucicucicoo.com