Balsamic reduction; it’s one of those things that make both savoury dishes and desserts stand up and take a bow.
From the time I first encountered it years ago, it was being used as a decorative drizzle over dessert in an upscale bistro I was working in. I remember it being a thick, almost molasses-like syrup with a sharp, bittersweet bite to it.
Somewhere along the line, it became domestically available in a plastic squeeze bottle, boasting a myriad of uses. The first time I saw it in this form was in a grocery store just outside Verona, Italy. It proved instrumental in one of the most memorable meals I had on that particular trip to Italy.
There is a fundamental difference between the stuff that you can buy at your local shops and the version I’m going to show you here: consistency. Ready-made drizzle balsamic is manageable and fairly runny compared to the stovetop reduction, which once cooled, is like a caramel sauce in texture.
There’s a couple things to also consider when reducing balsamic vinegar: it’ll make your kitchen smell like boiling vinegar (that’s pretty much what it is), making it hard to breathe. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation; your sinuses will thank you. Also, once it’s reduced down to its desired thickness, be very, very careful as you’re dealing with a form of molten sugar. I can’t be clear enough: you don’t want this hot stuff touching your skin.
So, ready to begin? Great! Here we go.
In a medium sauce pan, pour the contents of a bottle (in the video attached, I used a 500mL bottle) of balsamic vinegar. Reduce it slowly over low-to-medium heat for about 20-30 minutes. Check it every few minutes and give the pot a little swirl to gauge the thickness as once it starts to reduce, it picks up speed.
Once you’ve reached the right density, remove from the heat and let stand until the bubbling stops.
Carefully, pour it into a heat resistant container (pyrex glass or steel; for goodness sake, not plastic!) and let it cool.
It will go well as a garnish over meats, fish, grilled or roasted vegetables and desserts. Let your taste buds be your guide!