Balsamic Reduction

Many cooks like to reduce liquids in order to make gravies and sauces but a balsamic reduction is used for a lot more than just sauce. It is surprisingly versatile and adds a distinctive flavor to anything you cook.

What is Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar comes from the pressings of Trebbiano grapes that are reduced to a dark syrupy consistency and then aged. This syrup is put inside oak drums along with another vinegar. Over time the vinegar is moved to smaller kegs made from various woods until the vinegar is ready to sell. Each stage of this process adds character to the vinegar and, over time as the vinegar ages, the moisture is released thickening the vinegar.

Uses of Balsamic Vinegar

Vinegar is used in the kitchen for many reasons relating to food as well as other areas. Vinegar will add a bite to fruits and vegetables, will keep egg whites more formed during poaching, and will keep pasta from sticking while cooking. Vinegar is also used to make some very popular dressings. Using balsamic vinegar in place of the usual white distilled vinegar you will get the same end result but a slightly different flavor. Balsamic vinegar reduction can be used in place of straight vinegar if you desire a sweeter outcome to some dishes. A little balsamic vinegar goes a long way in your culinary pursuits and balsamic reduction can add an entirely new dimension to your cooking.

Making Balsamic Reduction

There is nothing easier than making a balsamic vinegar reduction and you only need a few things in order to do so:

  1. A bottle of balsamic vinegar--the better the vinegar, the better the taste.
  2. 1/2 teaspoon of refined sugar

In order to make a reduction you need a watchful eye and a few very simple instructions:

  1. Pour your bottle of vinegar in a stock pot. Try to use one with sloping sides as the liquid will begin to boil faster as well as reduce at a quickened pace.
  2. Turn the heat to high and wait for the vinegar to begin to boil.
  3. Reduce the temperature of the burner to medium.
  4. Now you may add your sugar to the pot and stir it until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Continue simmering, uncovered, until 75% of the vinegar has evaporated.
  6. Remove the vinegar from the heat and allow it to cool

The reduction is done if it is thickened to the consistency of syrup. If you would like it thicker then you may put it over the heat again and reduce it further.

Uses of the Balsamic Reduction

Balsamic vinegar in its natural state is sweeter than its white counterpart. When you reduce balsamic vinegar you concentrate the flavors and create a strong sauce as well as something aromatic and sweet. You can use the reduction for a myriad of things:

Italian Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Drizzle

Ingredients

  • Chicken breast; pounded thin and seasoned with Italian herbs
  • 1 cup angel hair pasta; cooked
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes; fresh
  • Balsamic reduction

Method

  1. Cook the chicken in the pan with a little butter until tender; remove and let rest
  2. Add pasta to the pan to warm up and toss with olive oil and tomatoes
  3. Slice chicken as pasta warms
  4. Place pasta on plate after one final toss, place the chicken on top then drizzle with the reduction

Warm Cherry Tomato Salad

Ingredients

  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • Balsamic vinegar reduction

Method

  1. Place frying pan on low until warm
  2. Add tomatoes and cook while constantly moving them around for a 1 minute
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of reduction and toss until reduction is heated
  4. Place in a bowl and toss with cheese

Tomato and Mozzarella Napoleon

Ingredients

  • 1 large tomato; sliced 1/4" thick
  • Fresh mozzarella; sliced 1/4" thick (try brie or goat cheese for something different)
  • Fresh basil
  • Balsamic vinegar reduction

Method

  1. Arrange cheese and tomato in alternating layers
  2. Sprinkle with basil
  3. Drizzle balsamic vinegar reduction over the tower

Uncommon Uses

Balsamic vinegar reduction can be used in many ways you simply would not expect. You can use it in desserts as a drizzle on puff pastry or on marble cheesecake made with mascarpone cheese. You can add it to soups for a kick or to traditional foods from Asia to add another compoenent and flavor profile. Never be afraid to experiment with balsamic vinegar.

Balsamic Reduction