Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What In Glazes?

If you ever happened to watch a show about cooking or hear conversations about cooking, you may have likely heard "being cooked with a reduction" thrown around here and there. Listening to that conversation without having any food knowledge, a person may think that it sounds like they took something away in order to make it. Interpreting that phrase, literally word for word, doesn't reflect its true meaning. Just as the title of this post states, so what in glazes does it mean? Join us as we go over the basics of what a balsamic reduction is, one of the top producers in the world for balsamic named Mussini, how reductions are made, how to make your own, and usage of this excellent condiment.


Mussini is an Italian manufacturer who produces true, authentic balsamic vinegars and glazes. The Mussini family has been making Balsamic Vinegar of Modena since 1909. During that year, the first three barrels were placed in the attic of the first vinegar-making facilities of Magreta. Today, after 100 years, they are still making the same precious balsamic vinegar in accordance with traditional methods that have been handed down from father to son, but in modern, certified facilities that are located on the Lowland close to the Apennines, near Margreta, just a few miles from the Ferrari factory. The wide range of products from the Mussini line are an expression of the joy that is typical of the Italian way of life and of the passion for excellent food and "eating well". A centuries-old tradition and the quality of unique products make Mussini an atelier of culinary art.

Balsamic Glaze: What Is It?

Just as the name implies, it is a reduced version of balsamic vinegar into a thicker substance with a fuller flavor. What glazes commonly consist of are cooked grape must and wine vinegar.

Ingredients Used In Glazes

This is an example of the ingredients Mussini uses for its Fig balsamic glaze:

cooked grape must, "IGP blasamic vinegar of modena" 39% (wine vinegar, cooked grape must), sugar, modified starch, fig flavor 1%. Contains sulfites.

  • Must is a word derived from Latin meaning "young wine" and is freshly pressed fruit juice. Grape juice is normally used and contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit. 7-23% of the must's weight is the solid portion referred to as the pomace. 
  • Modified starches are used in a variety ways in food products, like as a thickening agent. Other applications it is used for is to change texture, lengthen or shorten gelatinization time or increase the stability against excessive heat or cold during process or storage.
  • Sulfites are used as a food preservative to help prevent the formation of bacteria and from spoilage. Often used as preservatives in dried fruits, preserved radish, and dried potato products.

Below is another brand's glaze. Notice the extra ingredients they add in which are not necessary to make a balsamic glaze.

Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, sugar, dehydrated glucose syrup, modified corn starch, blood orange juice, xanthan gum stabilizer, natural orange flavor.

  • Dehydrated glucose syrup is an odorless, white powder used as a sweetener. Often used in flavorings, soups, beverages, cereals, confectioneries, and ice cream.
  • Xanathan gum is created by the fermentation of corn sugar with a bacteria called Xanthomonas campestris. This bacteria is the same black spots you see on veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower that appear over time when left in the fridge. Xanathan gum is commonly used in canned foods, sauces, soups, as a thickening agent and especially in gluten free products because it can perform the same functions as gluten.

How Balsamic Glaze Is Made

Here we will go over the process of how Mussini makes their glazes which may slightly differ from other companies.

The first step is having an IGP Balsamic of Modena used as the base for the glaze. IGP (a.k.a. PGI - Protected Geographical Indication) is an official title that is given to products for being genuine from its country of origin. Mussini uses their own young aged IGP Balsamic of Modena which is generally aged from 2 to 6 months. 

The balsamic is then cooked down with additional grape must added in to help the thickening and sweetening. A minimal amount of sugar is then added to give the glaze a sweeter finish than vinegar. Starch is also used to help with the thickening which gives chefs the ability to decorate plates and avoid the vinegar running on the plate.

Once the perfect sweetness and thickness have been achieved, the natural flavoring is added. Using pure fruit juice and fruit extracts, Mussini varies the exact amount of flavoring to create the best tasting flavored balsamic glaze.

Making Your Own Glaze

If you'd rather make your own, there is that option as well. As mentioned earlier, the essential ingredient needed is balsamic vinegar. Optional ingredients can include 1-4 cups of unrefined sweetener like honey or agave nectar, a part of an orange rind, a cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf or a tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary.
  1. Put a cup of balsamic vinegar into a medium size sauce pan (add optional flavoring ingredient if desired). Bring the heat to a boil.
  2. Once it boils, reduce the heat to about medium-high so it comes to a simmer. It will take about 10-15 minutes to thicken and reduce. Stir occasionally and allow to simmer until the vinegar has reduced by at least half for a thin reduction or have it reduce more than half for a thicker consistency. Do not increase heat in hopes to speed up the process. All that will be left is a stiff and hardened mass in the pot.
  3. When the desired consistency is reached, allow it to cool before transferring it to an airtight container. Store in a refrigerator until ready for use.

Though this is an alternative method to buying ready-made glaze, it is nowhere near the same level as the true authentic Mussini brand. With the long history Mussini has in producing balsamic, you will be able to experience the perfect taste a glaze can offer.

If you prefer to have the most genuinely made balsamic glazes available on the market, we recommend Mussini. Not only is there a vast variety of flavors available, but they also come in conveniently easy to squeeze bottles. You can browse around and see what types of flavors they have by clicking the image below.

Click me to shop Mussini Glazes!

How To Use Balsamic Glazes

Balsamic glaze can be used in numerous ways. This section will mention just a few of the methods you can use and on what dishes to apply them on. These are sure to make your dish stand out.

As A Glaze
Do a zigzag pattern or drizzle a small amount right before serving. To get the best aroma and flavor, serve it at room temperature.

As A Marinade
Perfect as is or as a base with other flavors added to it. Balsamic vinegar has natural tenderizing traits as well as a rich, condensed flavor.

As A Sauce/Dressing
Use as a savory base or as an enhancement to other sauces/dressings. When added to a hot liquid, the glaze will change its state into a liquid form and blend with the other flavors.

As A Garnish
Great for an artistic appeal to your dish. Apply a few drops, a zigzag design or go for an advanced, intricate arrangement to really wow the guest.

General Usage:

Ice Cream: One of the simplest yet most delicious usage of glazes. A few drops or drizzles will work wonders. You will never go back to plain old chocolate syrup! Recommended on vanilla.

Fruits: Believe it or not, nature's candy is a perfect pairing with glazes. Try it with strawberries, apples, bananas....you name it! You'll be in for a surprise.

Vegetables: One of the hardest things to eat for kids (and adults), but add in some glaze and the taste will magically increase ten fold! Easiest vegetable dish to try it on are salads. Apply to vegetables that are fresh or roasted.

Cheese & Eggs: Do the zigzag method on top of scrambled egg or an omelet and cheese that is tart or smooth.

Meats & Fish: Drizzle before serving or use in a marinade sauce.

......and these are just to name a few of the endless possibilities! You can get creative and create dishes like these:

Cheese, Basil and Tomato with Balsamic Glaze
Cheese Plate & Fruits with Balsamic Glaze 
Greek Style Sweet Potato Fries
(Olives, Feta Cheese, Basil, and Balsamic Glaze)
Bacon Wrapped Peaches with Balsamic Glaze
Fontina Pizza
(Made With Fontina Cheese, Bacon, Red Peppers and Balsamic Glaze) 

Wrap Up

After reading this post, you should now have a better understanding of what a balsamic reduction is, the ingredients used to make it, how a top producer like Mussini make their high end version, creating a do it yourself glaze and suggested usage. The balsamic reduction, or glaze which we have been referring it as, is one of the most versatile ingredients when it comes to gourmet cooking. We hope this helps the next time you hear someone bring this up, and maybe you can even join in the conversation with the small tidbits we mentioned here.

For your gourmet food shopping needs, you can always visit our online retail website at www.gourmetimportshop.com

Click me to shop at our gourmet food store!

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