Wednesday, October 8, 2008

MoFo 8: Reductions

Balsamic Syrup
Originally uploaded by Marni Molina
Any liquid can be reduced. The process of applying heat and reducing intensifies the flavor of the liquid while thickening it. Making reductions is an extremely versatile technique because it's the easiest way to make a syrup (if what you're reducing contains sugar) or a sauce (if it doesn't).

In addition, a lot of the most common reductions keep for extended periods of time, which is why I'm choosing to include them in "Putting Food By" month here at La Vegan Loca.

Making Balsamic Syrup was one of the first reductions I learned. We love balsamic vinegar because of it's many applications. It's both sour and sweet, which means it compliments both savory and sweet foods.

This is also a great frugal chef's trick since Balsamic Syrup made from cheap balsamic vinegar beats, if not rivals, the super-expensive imported balsamic vinegars that most of us can't afford. We get ours in massive bottles at our local warehouse store.

You don't need a recipe for this, but I'll present the information in recipe format just to make things easier.

Balsamic Syrup
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar
  1. Put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, reduce the heat so it simmers, gently. Continue simmering until the liquid has reduced to 1/2 - 1/3 its original volume. Keep an eye on it. Don't let it bubble up in the pan or boil again. You may need to reduce the heat a few more times as the volume drops. When done, it should be thick and syrupy. This may take 20-30 minutes.
  2. Allow the syrup to cool in the pan (it'll thicken even more as it cools) and store in a clean jar. Label it and your syrup will keep indefinitely. 
Some recipes recommend storing it in the fridge. I don't think this is necessary (as long you haven't added anything to it) but if you choose to do so, remember that some applications may require it to be room temperature, so plan accordingly.  Also, depending on what you add, it may affect how long your syrup will keep.

I made the jar of Balsamic Syrup shown above this morning. I used the jar itself to measure my starting amount. I began with two full jars-worth of balsamic vinegar and you can see that I ended up with one jar, about 3/4 full, when I was done. I like measuring with my final destination container for this reason.

As an aside, the smell of reducing vinegar is fantastic, but it stings my eyes and nostrils. I'm a big wuss that way. Cooking peppers send me running for my inhaler. So if you are sensitive, you may want to open your kitchen window.

If you google "Balsamic Syrup" you'll find lots of recipes, some of which call for added sugar. I don't see the need. Balsamic vinegar is already sweet and that sweetness really intensifies upon reduction.

You can, however, add other flavorings either before the reduction or after. To make a Citrus Balsamic Syrup, for example, you could reduce balsamic vinegar along with orange juice. Experiment to find a ratio you like but start somewhere in the neighborhood of two-to-one (balsamic-to-juice).

You can also reduce the balsamic along with wine or add chopped dried fruits, caramelized onions, or even roasted garlic. Get creative.

What can you use Balsamic Syrup on? The possibilities are only as limited as your own imagination, but here are some suggestions:
  • salad
  • broiled, roasted, or grilled veggies and fruits
  • fresh fruit (especially watermelon)
  • ice cream (yes .... really)
  • pizza or focaccia 
  • seitan, tofu, or tempeh
  • veggie burgers
  • rice
  • stir-fries
  • baked potatoes
  • sweet or savory waffles, pancakes, or griddlecakes
Just remember, this is potent stuff. So use it sparingly and taste as you go.


Anonymous said...

I love reducing balasamic vineger and then put it on tofu. So good!!!

jessy said...

i have yet to make a reduction and i can't wait to make one now! that's great that you can use an inexpensive bottle of balsamic and get awesome flavor, too! mmmmmmmmm! i had no idea that reducing was so easy, and i'm happy that it keeps for a loooooong time! thanks again, Marni! i can't wait to make my own - it sounds so gourmet & tasty! yay!

Anonymous said...

I learn SO much when I visit your blog!!

Marni said...

TheVeganFoodie - Word! :)

Jessy - Hooray! I love inspiring people to try new things and play with their food.

KindKitchen - That's the bestest compliment ever. Thanks so much. :)

Jeni Treehugger said...

Mmmmm Balsamic Vinegar is sooo right.

Erin said...

Great info! Not I want to make barrels of balsamic syrup.