Easy to make rhubarb balsamic reduction turns average balsamic vinegar into a gourmet syrup. Subtlety fruity with a familiar balsamic tang. Balsamic reduction can be drizzled over just about anything you can think of from salad to steak to ice cream.
A year ago, we celebrated Mother’s Day in Los Angeles, CA. It was, as you might expect, a stunning day with brilliant blue skies and billowing cotton candy clouds as far as the eye could see. We strolled through Hollywood reading off the names on star after star on the sidewalk. My sci-fi loving boys grinned while I snapped their photo with the “feet” of R2-D2 and C-3PO in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. For lunch we had our very first In-N-Out Burgers and they were as good as everyone told us they would be.
From Hollywood we drove into Griffith Park and visited the majestically appointed Griffith Observatory. The view from the observatory is unmatched. I posed for a picture holding the Hollywood sign in the palm of my hand. Little Helping loved climbing around the base of the rooftop telescopes while Mike and I took in the magnitude of the city below. If not for the boundary of the Pacific Ocean who’s to say how far the tightly packed buildings could have sprawled!
I have many other treasured memories from last year’s trip. This week I have been thinking about visiting the Calabasas Farmers’ Market. It is a wonderfully arranged market, close enough to our friends’ house that we left our car and walked. I kept my eyes peeled for movie and television stars. The Kardashians must be regulars to their neighborhood Saturday market! I wondered if they would be carrying designer canvas grocery bags.
There were no celebrities to be seen; just incredibly normal looking people browsing berries, veggies, and flowers and carrying normal canvas tote bags. I was only briefly disappointed. One glance at the variety of produce and I forgot all about anything else. The rainbow of fruit and every shade of green imaginable spread abundantly across folding table after folding table. We sampled dripping citrus, swollen berries, thick crusted bread, and then we stopped in front of a booth with no produce – a vinegar booth. Manned by a clean-cut middle-aged man in a white polo and pressed khaki pants he drew us right out of the crowd with a pitch so smooth we didn’t even see it coming.
Before we knew what was happening we were having our first tastes of slowly aged balsamic vinegar. I think I saw fireworks! Thick and sweet like molasses, but bold and sharp like regular balsamic vinegar. We were totally hooked. He nearly talked us into a case of the intoxicating syrup, but at the last second we regained control of our thoughts and picked only two. Bottles of traditional and pomegranate-flavored vinegar were slid into nondescript paper bags. Walking away there was a little bit of, “who was that polo-shirted man?” lingering in the air.
I have been rationing the vinegar, using it as a last moment drizzle on pretty much anything from salads to roasts. Now surrounded by rhubarb I started to think about how amazing an infused super-concentrated balsamic vinegar might be. Not long ago a friend mentioned making reduced balsamic and cooking it down to a syrup before bottling it to give away. It sounded simple enough.
Making Balsamic Reduction
One night after dinner I rashly emptied a bottle of mediocre balsamic vinegar into a heavy bottomed saucepan. I let it simmer on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until I could see it begin to reduce, then I dumped about 2 cups of diced rhubarb right into the pot. With the heat low, the rhubarb slowly broke down and the vinegar thickened into a syrup.
Wowza! It was incredible! I took a spoon out to Mike expressing my delight and saying it would be great even over ice cream. He took one look at the lumpy tar-colored substance and may have flat out refused to taste if not for me practically shoving it into his mouth. His eyes got round and he joined me in exclaiming over the creation. Then we sampled a little bit over vanilla ice cream just to test my hypothesis and it was confirmed.
I used the balsamic reduction as the base for an easy glaze for grilled pork. I cooked the pork until nearly done before brushing the sweet and tangy paste over it and then let it cook just a smidge longer to caramelize the sugars. It was a really, really good idea. The tangy syrup also livened up roasted asparagus.
It was also a good idea to heat up the leftover asparagus the next morning and top it with a poached egg. The sharp vinegar flavor seemed more pronounced after sitting for several hours and the simple mild flavor of the egg balanced it marvelously. I can’t wait to try more ways to use this easy rhubarb balsamic reduction.
- 2 cups balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups diced rhubarb
- Place all the ingredients into a large sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the diced rhubarb. Stir occasionally and reduce heat as needed to keep the vinegar from reaching a boil.
- Continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced to half the original volume. The vinegar should thickly coat the back of a metal spoon.
- Strain the reduced vinegar through a mesh strainer to remove the rhubarb pulp.
- Store the reduction in a clean jar or glass bottle with a tight fitting lid. The reduction should keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.