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Have you ever tasted a good Balsamic Reduction? It’s one of those things that you might not automatically reach for, but once you introduce it into your cooking repertoire, you’re always going to want it in your fridge. It is gluten-free, vegan and paleo.
A balsamic vinegar reduction is a concentrated and thickened version of balsamic vinegar that is simmered in a saucepan until it has been reduced by almost half, or a quarter. When you reduce balsamic vinegar, you’re actually evaporating the water and concentrating the sugars. So it’s naturally sweetened. The result will be a more concentrated and intense balsamic flavour, and the consistency will thicken. The longer you let the vinegar simmer, the thicker it will get.
It is sweet, tangy, syrupy and absolutely delicious! It adds acid and sweetness that make any dish pop! Furthermore, it is absolute deliciousness on a plate and super easy to make. A concentrated and thickened version of balsamic vinegar that is perfect for drizzling on salads and vegetables, or used as a glaze for meats. The rich and savoury sweet essence of balsamic vinegar without a hint of vinegar’s typical whang.
I drizzle balsamic vinegar on salads with a little olive oil (it’s my “go-to” quick daily dressing). And I also use it when making my Salad dressing. The great thing about making balsamic reduction at home is that it only takes one ingredient. And about 15 minutes of your time. This Balsamic Reduction will be your new “go-to” sauce to top off any dish – done in just 15 minutes!
The great news is, it will last for at least 3 months in your fridge, so you can make a big batch, and it might last you all summer! Or it might last you two days, once you taste it.
Although a lot of recipes call for added sweetener (often in the form of brown sugar, honey or maple syrup), balsamic vinegar is naturally sweet and becomes even sweeter as it cooks down into a reduction. When adding sweetener, it’s called the balsamic glaze. Both balsamic glaze and reduction can be used to enhance the taste of sweet and savoury recipes. But when it comes to a balsamic reduction, with that thick, sweet drizzle, the first thing that always comes to mind is Caprese salad, right? But you can also use them in the following dishes:
- For a simple appetizer, pour a small puddle of extremely good quality extra-virgin olive oil into the centre of a lovely white plate, then squirt in a few droplets of the balsamic vinegar reduction. Provide slices of crusty Italian bread for dipping
- Use it to drizzle over tomatoes and fresh mozzarella to make a Caprese salad
- Salad dressing, where you want to add a burst of flavour
- Enhance the flavour of tomato-based sauces, when your spaghetti sauce needs zooping up
- When a vegetable sauté lacks oomph, it’s fabulous served alongside some grilled vegetables, I personally love it on roasted or grilled asparagus
- To flavour simple grilled meats, such as fish, beef, pork, poultry, ribs, or chicken
- Drizzle over an appetizer, grilled peaches, grilled pineapple, bread, bruschetta, roasted polenta
- If you like using olive oil and vinegar for dipping with bread, using a balsamic reduction will make it even more delicious
- Serve as a dip with aged cheeses, fresh fruit or dollop on ice cream
- Or whatever you’d like when I want to wow the guests with a fancy squiggly garnish alongside the platter
- Or you could just drink it if you like… it’s that good!
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- 1 cup Balsamic vinegar - Yield about 1/4 cup*
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- Pour balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once bubbling, reduce heat to medium-low, continue to simmer and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes until vinegar has reduced by about half and thickened*. Stir occasionally. Keep an eye on it to make sure it's not boiling because it can burn. Just a low simmer is perfect.
- * You can reduce it by ¼, 1/3 or 1/2, depending on how thick you like it. Just remember that it will continue to thicken as it cools. For a concentrated but still liquid balsamic sauce, you should at least cook it until it reduces by half. It will still be liquid, but will start to coat the pan and a spoon. For a thicker consistency, cook it until it’s reduced to a quarter of the original volume. The finished reduction should be thick and light amber. Once smell slightly of caramel and complex fruit. As you are making it, you can taste it and test the flavours and consistency that you prefer.
- As soon as the balsamic reduction reaches the consistency and concentration level you prefer, remove it from the heat and let it cool down for at least 10 minutes to serve. It will thicken slightly as it cools. Once allowed to sit and cool, the flavour will become more complex.
- Allow to cool completely and then transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator.
Tips for the best Balsamic reductionWhen boiling balsamic vinegar down into a syrupy essence, you’re throwing a lot of steam and aromas into the atmosphere. It kind of makes your house smell like vinegar while it reduces, but it’s worth it (I love this stuff, I want to pour it on everything!), plus there are worse smells in this world! Remember to turn on the exhaust fan or if you have an outdoor kitchen of some sort — a single burner on your gas grill, for example, or a one-pot propane burner, that’s where I recommend you do it. Or you can just diffuse some essential oils and your house smells fantastic again. You can reduce it by ¼, 1/3 or 1/2, depending on how thick you like it. Just remember that it will continue to thicken as it cools. A neat trick to help you track the reduction process is to visualize where the level of a balsamic reduction will end up in relation to the sides of the pot. Typically, the volume is reduced to one-third or one-quarter of its original volume. So if you’re starting with 1 cup of balsamic vinegar, you’ll end up with 1/4 cup. Pour 1/4 cup of water into the pot you’re using (do NOT mix with balsamic, it is just to have a visual aid to check the level). Now take a chopstick or any other straight object and stick it in the pot. Note the level of water on the chopstick. Then, when you’re reducing the vinegar, you’ll have a visual aid to show you how much more you have to reduce by putting the chopstick in the simmering liquid and noting how high up on the stick it is.
Which balsamic vinegar should you use?The good news is you don’t need to buy the really good most expensive and aged balsamic vinegar to produce a delicious reduction when making it at home, use the relatively inexpensive commercial balsamic. A well-made commercial balsamic will at least have sweetness, accentuated by the tartness and a lingering richness. To make a reduction of balsamic vinegar, you must start with genuine balsamic vinegar. There are plenty of imitations, so read the label. The ingredients should include grape must and red wine vinegar, NOT cider vinegar, corn syrup and caramel colouring. A moderately-priced organic or Aceto Balsamico di Modena (balsamic vinegar from the Modena region) is what I usually use. Because balsamic vinegar evaporates as it ages, high-quality aged balsamic vinegars (often the most expensive ones at the store) are actually pretty syrupy, to begin with. This recipe is designed to create that same experience with any bottle of balsamic in your pantry, but remember that depending on how concentrated your vinegar is, to begin with, the time it takes to cook down into a reduction will vary. You’re looking for the vinegar to coat the back of a spoon — it should be thick yet pourable, similar to warmed honey. It will continue to thicken as it cools, so switch off the heat a minute or two before it’s ready.
StorageFor long-term storage, refrigerate the reduction, which will maintain quality. But for a week or less, you can certainly keep the sauce at room temperature, it's not a safety issue. Once made, Balsamic Reduction will last for at least 3 months, as long as you have it properly sealed in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. If the reduction hardens after being in the refrigerator for too long, just place the container in a bowl filled with warm water to heat up the reduction. Suggestion: Keep a large batch of the sauce in a jar with a nonreactive lid. Then transfer small amounts into little plastic squeeze bottles (about 2-ounce capacity) with a narrow spout so that it can be applied in a slender stream for controlled garnishing to make artistic squiggle presentations.
What is the difference between Balsamic Reduction, Flavourful Balsamic Reduction, Balsamic Glaze and Balsamic Demi-glace?The reduction is the process of intensifying the flavours by simmering or boiling the base stock to get a thick consistency. Balsamic reduction is made by allowing balsamic vinegar to simmer for around 15 minutes. Balsamic vinegar, when cooked for a long time, turns sweet and has a syrup-like consistency. It is applied to food, typically by dipping or with a brush. Garlic cloves can also be added to make the Flavourful Balsamic Reduction. Aromatics such as vegetables, fruits, and wine are often added to the broth to enhance the taste of the reduction. After a while, the aromatics are removed, and the liquid is then simmered to form a thick syrup-like consistency.
Making your own homemade balsamic vinegar reduction also allows you to infuse additional flavours into the vinegar. To turn one of these average commercially made balsamic vinegar into a very rich and flavourful balsamic essence, add one of the following options:
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