Every once in while, the gods smile down on me and I stump Chef with a cooking question.  A few days ago, this is how it went down.

Me, “What is the difference between a syrup and a glaze?”
Chef, “Well, a glaze is a reduction.  I guess technically, a syrup is a reduction too.”
Me, “Hmmm.”

I thought, to myself, “Self, why don’t you google it?”

Is it not amazing the information we have at our finger tips?  How many dinner conversations have changed because of life long unanswered questions?  A few years ago, while on a family vacation, the topic of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge came up.  And the questions were rapid fire.  What year was it built? How did you drive to the beach before it was built?  How long did it take to build?  When did they add the second bridge?  Wow, about that ferry service we never knew about.  Each of us learned that day about the architecture of the bridge, how the DOT purchased the ferry company so that it would continue to make a profit while the bridge was built.  Pretty amazing stuff, just at our finger tips.  And for us Marylanders, a necessary way of life and relaxation revolves around this very special set of bridges.

I digress, but I have a point.  At that dinner table in our Bethany Beach house rental, in just a matter of minutes, I had googled “when was the Chesapeake Bay Bridge built,” and the we had more answers than expected.

So, I googled “syrup vs glaze” and “the difference between syrup and a glaze.”  Nothing.  Nada. Zilch.  No help from the old google.  I went rogue.  I went old school.  I went to The Professional Chef* and Webster’s**.

resources-tersiguels

From The Professional Chef:

glaze: to give an item a shiny surface by brushing or otherwise coating it with sauce, aspic, icing, or another appareil.  For meat, to coat with sauce and then brown in an oven or salamander.

reduction: The product that results when a liquid is reduced.

syrup:  Sugar that is dissolved in liquid, usually water, possibly with the addition of flavorings such as spices or citrus        zests.

Thanks to the definition of reduction, I had to turn to Webster’s to double check two things. 1) The definition of definition, just make sure that elementary school grammar was as accurate as I remember.  2) To see how Webster defined reduction.

From Webster’s:

defi·ni·tion (def’ə nish’ən) n. 1 a defining or being defined

LET’S JUST HOLD THE PHONE!  It goes on, but what’s the point?

In good old elementary school, did not the best teacher of all time, Miss Hauck teach us that you do not, you cannot include in the definition of the word the word itself.  Well, thanks a lot Webster.  For nothing.

Alright, the English lesson is over.  I couldn’t even bring myself to look up reduction in Webster’s for fear that it would have the word in the definition.  And I don’t want to have to admit how many times I had to google MLA format.

The point of all of this is this, in cooking the vocabulary is extensive.  And looking up these words taught me some clearly valuable lessons.  If there was A Chef’s Wife glossary of terms this is what it would say.

A glaze – The mixing of powder sugar and milk to dip home made donuts.

A reduction – Made from balsamic vinegar and used regularly in my cooking.

A syrup – Combining a one-to-one ratio of water and sugar that is brought to a boil.  While cooling herbs like rosemary are added.  Once cooled, combine with fresh squeezed orange juice and bourbon.

I am finally coming full circle.  I realized a few weeks back there are several recipes I have wanted to share, but I realized I hadn’t shared this kitchen staple.

Your players…

balsamic-reduction-players-tersiguels

When you open the vinegar, you may have a plastic cap.  For your own sanity (assuming you aren’t beside yourself about the definition of definition) pop it off.  You can use this trusty kitchen tool.  Or dental tool, craft tool, carpentry tool.  Whatever you may call needle nose pliers in your house.

pliers-as-a-kitchen-tool-tersiguels

Once your cap is off, pour the entire bottle into the pot.  On medium high heat, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low.  Simmer for close to an hour.  Reducing the vinegar by half.

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Remove from the heat, and allow to cool.  Once cooled, you can return to the original bottle for storage.

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Just a few quick notes:
– Reducing is not making a syrup or caramel.  It’s important to turn the heat down because the sugars in the balsamic vinegar will in fact turn to caramel.
– Vinegar has a very strong fragrance.  Once you heat it, it’s like a household diffuser.  If you don’t like the smell, this is the time of the year to make this because the windows are open.  (Don’t lean directly over the pot, trust me.)
– The vinegar will become slight thicker once reduced.  That’s the consistency you want.  It should easily coat the back of a spoon.
– By reducing the vinegar you are intensifying it’s flavor.  By doing so, you have just made the world’s easiest dressing.

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This is my go to dressing.  You don’t need to add oil or mix.  Drizzle a small amount on your salad.  Add salt and pepper.  Eat.

I am looking forward to sharing with you other ways I incorporate this reduction in my recipes.

*The Professional Chef. 8th ed. New York: Wiley, 2006. p 1179, 1184, 1188.

**Dictionaries, Webster’S New World College. Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Cleveland, OH: John Wiley, 2006. p 379.