Hi there and welcome to the Health-ify Your Life, column, by me, Leah the Vegan. What are some of your favorite whole foods to use in the kitchen? I like the basics – carrots, celery, potatoes, and onions. Many meals can be made with these simple and inexpensive vegetables – soups, roasted veggies, roasted veggie soups, potato dumplings, potato/onion pancakes, sweet carrot desserts, and so on. How about favorite ingredients? What are yours? I’d have to say balsamic vinegar, garlic, olive oil, and sea salt would be my top faves. These four ingredients are the foundation of any good chef’s kitchen, if you ask me!
On that note, this month we will be exploring balsamic vinegar. According to Wiki, balsamic is a “dark, concentrated, vinegar made wholly or partially of grape must.” What in the world is grape must? Let’s read on. “Grape must is freshly made juice that includes stems, seeds, and skins of the fruit. Unlike highly pasteurized and processed grape juice, grape must is thick and comes in various shades of blue and purple. Grape must is the first step in the winemaking process.” Wine? Yeah, sure, time for a glass (or three)! Oky, Im bak to tell u abut balmic vingar, but 1st ill takea nap.
Whew, learning really is fun! There are many types of balsamic vinegar but the two most common are traditional balsamic vinegar (TBV) and regular balsamic vinegar without the TBV label. Traditional balsamic vinegar, TBV, is a balsamic vinegar made in Moderna, aged at least 12 years, and protected under European law for protection of destination of origin, like French wines. Now, balsamic vinegar not labelled TBV is a whole different vinegar as non-TBV does not have to be aged, can be mixed up to 2% with caramel color, and is very cheap. The taste difference is remarkable, as traditional balsamic vinegar is denser, more viscous, and has an indescribable depth of flavor. TBV is notably more expensive and harder on the bank account, usually starting at $20/bottle.
What if I told you the flavor of expensive, traditional balsamic vinegar could be achieved with a cheap $5 bottle of balsamic vinegar? You’ve probably heard of balsamic reduction and balsamic glaze at fancy restaurants, drizzled over roasted veggies or vanilla ice cream. Balsamic reduction glaze is super easy to make and an interesting, cheap way to experiment in your kitchen. You’ll need a 16–17-ounce bottle of any kind of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and white sugar.
Add the entire bottle and two tbsp of loose brown sugar to a small pot and heat, uncovered, over medium-low heat. Stir constantly to dissolve the sugar. Heat, and stir frequently, for about 15-20 minutes or until thick and syrupy. After 15-20 minutes, or when reduction is thick and syrupy, remove the pot from the heat and stir in two tablespoons of white sugar. Note: if your reduction is thin, and smells burned at any point during this process, just remove the pot from the heat, stir in three tablespoons of white sugar and let cool. In either case, the reduction will thicken as it cools. You can store your balsamic reduction glaze in a sealed jar in the fridge for months, try it on desserts, veggies, dressings, marinades, and more!
Stay tuned in every month for an in-depth look at my other favorite ingredients and how to use them in any kitchen, along with handy and healthy eating and cooking tips. Let me know if you try your hand at making a balsamic reduction glaze. I’d love to hear from you – email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, I’m Leah the vegan!