Balsamic vinegar, originating in Italy, is made from fermented white grapes and is a staple in marinades, sauces and salad dressings. A vinegar reduction requires using heat to evaporate excess liquid from the vinegar, resulting in a thickened product with concentrated flavour. A balsamic vinegar reduction is easy to make and once you know the technique, you can use it in preparing your own food, including homemade marinade, barbecue sauce or Hollandaise sauce.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Balsamic vinegar
- Enamel skillet (or coated stainless steel)
- Butter (optional)
Choose a saucepan with a handle that is easy for you to manipulate. Enamel-coated, cast aluminium works well but you can use a non-stick, coated stainless steel skillet or shallow pan. Avoid using uncoated copper or aluminium pans that may alter the flavour of the vinegar.
Pour 1 cup of a good quality balsamic vinegar into a skillet that has preheated for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Use the handle to roll the pan continuously to keep the vinegar from burning. If the pan is too heavy to manipulate comfortably, you may stir the vinegar with a spoon; however, it is harder to judge the consistency this way.
Keeping the heat at medium, allow the vinegar to simmer. As the liquid boils, it will become thicker. A successful balsamic reduction is approximately 1/3 of the original amount. For example, if you start with 1 cup of vinegar, you will have 1/3 cup of reduced vinegar sauce when you're done.
Remove the pan from the heat when the vinegar is almost the consistency of pancake syrup. The heat of the pan will continue to evaporate some of the liquid out of the vinegar so take it off the heat just before it reaches the desired thickness.
Add a little water if your vinegar reduction becomes too thick. Once the liquid begins to thicken, it may do so very quickly but you can always add enough water to bring it back to the right consistency.
Stir in a teaspoon of butter while the vinegar reduction is still hot, if desired. Add a tiny bit at a time and stir until it is dissolved thoroughly before adding more. Butter is called for in many recipes that use a balsamic reduction but you must add it gradually to keep the liquid from separating.
Tips and warnings
- Read the label on the balsamic vinegar to ensure that it contains grapes and red wine vinegar. Avoid using balsamic vinegar that contains cider vinegar for most flavourful results.
- A balsamic vinegar reduction can burn quickly if you are not moving the pan constantly or stirring it.
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