serves: makes 2/3 cup thin syrup or 1/2 cup thick syrup
I use this condiment on a range of dishes as a thick sauce to drizzle on meats and vegetables and, in a somewhat thinner state, as a glaze on roasts. As you'll see in the recipe, the vinegar reduces with added honey and bay leaf, but you can give it other flavor notes. I vary these with the dish I intend to dress: for vegetables I add whole cloves; for meat and poultry, I add rosemary; for fish, I add thyme. The basic formula will provide you with syrup for drizzling on a half-dozen dishes, maybe more. It will keep forever in the refrigerator, but I'm sure you'll use it up quicker than that!
1 pint balsamic vinegar, good quality
1 tablespoon honey
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
Pour the balsamic vinegar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and place over moderate heat. Stir in the honey, drop in the bay leaves and cloves and bring to a low boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and allow the vinegar to reduce slowly. After a half hour or so, when it has lost more than half of its original volume, the vinegar will start to appear syrupy, and you should watch it closely.
To use as a glaze, cook the sauce to 1/3 of its original volume (when it will measure 2/3 cup). It should be the consistency of molasses, thick but still spreadable. Pour the syrup through a small strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Discard the bay leaves and seasonings. Brush on the glaze while warm.
For use as a condiment and an elixir to drizzle over vegetables, reduce the vinegar even more, until it approaches one-quarter of its original volume. Slow bubbles will rise from the syrup and it will take on the consistency of honey, leaving a thick coating on a spoon. Pour it through a small strainer into a heatproof bowl or measuring cup. Use a heatproof spatula or spoon to clean out the saucepan before it sticks to the pot for good! Drizzle on the syrup while it is still warm.
Store in the refrigerator, in a sealed container. It will congeal but keep indefinitely. To use, spoon the hard sauce into a bowl or heatproof measuring cup and heat it slowly in a pan of hot water or at low level in the microwave. For a thinner consistency, stir in drops of hot water.