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A balsamic reduction is a thick sauce with a syrupy consistency that is made from balsamic vinegar. A reduction sauce is made by heating the sauce, in this instance balsamic vinegar, until the excess liquid has evaporated. Many times, reductions are made from the drippings of cooked meat or poultry. In contrast, a balsamic reduction is made with vinegar straight out of a bottle, rather than something previously cooked.
Making a balsamic reduction is fairly easy and can be done by someone who is a beginner in the kitchen. The key to correctly making a reduction is to follow the instructions and stir continuously. Using a heavy saucepan and a wire whisk will give the best results.
The vinegar is cooked over low heat and stirred occasionally, until it comes to a soft boil. Once the vinegar has begun to boil, it must be watched closely to ensure that it does not burn or scorch. The best way to achieve this is to stir it continuously while watching for it to become thicker. The amount of vinegar used depends upon the amount of the reduction that is needed. The final product will be about half of the original amount used.
The finished sauce should have the consistency and texture of maple or table syrup. If a reduction has become too thick, water can be added to thin it, though additional cooking time may be required once water is added. If a sauce is too thin it must continue to cook until the desired thickness has been achieved.
For a basic, sweet and tangy balsamic reduction, the only ingredient needed is the vinegar. Some recipes call for refined sugar, brown sugar, or honey which, when added, will make the sauce sweeter. Wine can also be used for a balsamic reduction by using equal parts of wine and vinegar. Other spices such as garlic, basil, rosemary, or thyme are sometimes added, depending on personal taste and what the reduction will be used for.
The finished reduction can be placed in a squeeze bottle, which can be used to drizzle the reduction onto food or a plate. Some of the most common foods with which a balsamic reduction is served are salads, steaks, pork loin, and certain soups. Leftover sauce should be kept refrigerated but brought to room temperature before reusing.