Berries and vinegar might sound like odd partners, but they’re actually wonderful together. When you combine sweet spring strawberries with a reduction of Balsamic vinegar, the flavors are fantastic, making for an easy and healthy dessert.
By My Stove
By the side of my stove sits a platter filled with basic things that I use constantly in cooking. Olive oil, coconut oil, a variety of salts and pepper, and a little squeeze bottle filled with an intensely flavored brown syrup. That syrup is Balsamic vinegar reduced with a tiny bit of brown sugar.
How to Use Balsamic Reduction (Syrup)
Balsamic reduction is useful in so many ways.
- Squirt a little over roast green beans and onions or other roast vegetables to dress before serving
- Add a squiggly line to dress a plate, like in a fancy restaurant
- Drip it onto toasted baguette smeared with soft goat cheese for an appetizer (add figs if in season)
- Use it as a sauce for roast or grilled salmon or chicken
- Garnish pureed soups
- Squirt over a classic Caprese salad of sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves with some good olive oil
- Drizzle over fresh, sweet strawberries for a fantastic and healthy dessert (over vanilla ice cream too)
Balsamic vinegar comes in a range of prices and qualities from the cheap imitation stuff to highly prized, aged bottles.
For a reduction, choose at the lower end of the price scale but still a decent quality. And be sure to read the label. You don’t want to buy a bottle with caramel coloring or anything added.
One label I read had a warning label that it contained lead. I buy organic balsamic vinegar. The Whole Foods 365 brand is good and inexpensive, but there are many options.
Simply reduce Balsamic vinegar by half, simmering in a small saucepan with a little brown sugar. As the vinegar reduces, it thickens. It will thicken further upon cooling into a syrup. Pour into a squeeze bottle or a small jar with a tight lid. No refrigeration is needed.
About Strawberries and Pesticides
For strawberries, I only buy organic. They taste better and reduce your exposure to pesticides. If you can only find conventionally grown strawberries, the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks.
The Environmental Working Group publishes an annual Shoppers Guide to highlight which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic.
You can reduce your pesticide exposure by avoiding what the EWG lists on their “dirty dozen” list. The “clean fifteen” list is there too.
- A great article and photos from a visit to Modena, Italy, where real Balsamic is produced, by David Lebovitz.
- Some fun history on Balsamic vinegar
- Fig, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Crostini with Balsamic Reduction
Reduce Balsamic vinegar with a little brown sugar and you get a fantastic, intensely flavored syrup that’s versatile in many dishes from salads to entrees, side dishes and even dessert. I keep a squeeze bottle ready to use by my stove. Here, it’s paired with sweet strawberries for a simple, healthy dessert. Yield: 1 cup, 8 ounces (240ml) of syrup
- 2 cups (500ml) decent quality organic Balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon organic brown sugar
- 1 full dry pint of strawberries, washed and quartered
- In a small saucepan, place vinegar and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a strong simmer, add sugar, and reduce by half to one cup. Watch so it does not burn or reduce too far. Stir or whisk occasionally. Allow to cool. It will thicken further upon cooling. Place in a squeeze bottle or small jar with a tight fitting lid.
- If using the syrup to top strawberries, place washed and sliced berries in a bowl or wine glass and drizzle with syrup. Serve immediately.