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Balsamic Syrup

Great in salad dressings, inexpensive, everyday balsamic vinegar becomes something special indeed when you give it two simple things: time and a little bit of heat. It couldn’t be easier…except maybe buying the aged-for-decades balsamic vinegar in the first place.

Which you totally could. But for me, I’d rather use the $400 it costs for a bottle of traditional Italian balsamic vinegar to actually go to Italy! That’s one of the reasons why I take the time to make this syrup.

Plus, it tastes delicious. And what is it delicious with? See the end of the recipe for a few serving suggestions.

One more important thing: while the balsamic vinegar is cooking, please do not put your face over the pot and inhale. Just don’t. Trust me.

1 cup inexpensive balsamic vinegar (I use Balsamic Vinegar of Modena but use what you like)

Add the vinegar to a small saucepan. Place the saucepan on medium-low heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir. Cook for 5 minutes. At this point, there should be little bubbles forming. Stir and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced and thickened (think of soft ice cream just starting to melt rather than yogurt). Remove from the heat and cool; it will become thicker as it cools.

You should have about ¼ cup of syrup which seems like a small amount but you only need a few drops or a drizzle to kick up the flavor of a dish. Store remaining syrup covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

If the vinegar starts to smell burnt, you have the heat too high or you’ve cooked it too long and you have to start again.

Don’t Freak Out!

1) The first time I made this, I had the heat set at medium-high. I quickly brought it to a boil and within a few minutes, it burned. So, I err on the side of caution now and cook it much lower. However, I once cooked the vinegar completely on the lowest setting. It took 50 minutes and I pushed it another 5 minutes to thicken it. That 5 minutes did it in: it was so thick I could’ve spackled my walls with it and it was just starting to taste burnt. What I’m getting at is this: while the recipe as written does have the heat and timing worked out, it still may take you a few tries to get it right. And that’s okay. Also, while you don’t have to be chained to the stove, you do have to babysit it a bit. Check in every few minutes. And then enjoy your creation!

2) Gluten-free concerns: Most everyday balsamic vinegar contains caramel coloring. Unless it specifies that it is made from wheat, barley, or malt, caramel coloring is generally considered safe for people with gluten sensitivity; however, please use your own discretion in regards to your health.

3) Make it meaty. Use the syrup with steak or tenderloin. Pat the beef dry with a paper towel. Discard the towel. Sprinkle each side of the beef with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Rub a bit of canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil into the meat on each side. Heat a grill pan on medium heat. Grill the meat on each side for a few minutes (or longer) to your desired doneness. Remove the meat from the pan and allow it to rest so the juices redistribute. Lightly drizzle the syrup over the beef and serve.

4) Make it veggie. Peel a large sweet potato. Slice the sweet potato into ½” thick pieces. Place the sweet potatoes into a steamer and steam for 3 to 5 minutes, or until fork-tender but not mushy. Remove the sweet potatoes from the steamer and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Sprinkle each side with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Rub a bit of canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil into the potato on each side. Heat a grill pan on medium heat. Grill the sweet potato on each side for 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the pan and lightly drizzle the syrup over the sweet potato and serve.

Beef tenderloin and sweet potatoes grilled and drizzled with Balsamic Syrup.

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