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Simple reductions

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
So someone told me about a really good sauce that I want to try making, and the instructions were as follows:

50/50 mix of cabernet and honey, reduce for 3 hours.

Question: "reduce" just means sit it over a low flame and let it cook off, right? Do I have to do anything specific with the flame? Do I have to stir it?

I want to try this, but I don't want to make a mess and set my house on fire. Does anyone else have any good sauce recipes I might like to try? I'm open to all kinds of things :)
post #2 of 12
a reduction is simply to reduce the amount of water / aqueous "schufft" and leave the concentrated - presumed tasty - goodies in the pan, thicker than before.

so, it must at least simmer - i.e. you must get the pan to reach higher than the boiling point (of water.) past that it's a matter of not burning/scorching the good stuff on(to) the bottom of the pan.
post #3 of 12
Three hours? Sounds like an incredible amount of time, unless you're reducing a vast quantity.

Make sure you monitor it. Most simple reductions merely go to half to one quarter the original volume. Some do you further, to form a syrup.

Make sure to stir it. All that honey is likely to scorch if you don't watch it.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
Just the info I was looking for. thank you.
post #5 of 12
?!! -- as they say in chess commentary.

Also, no. N. O.

Simmering (water) occurs BELOW the boiling point (of water). Boiling (water) occurs at the boiling point (of water). Results from simmering and boiling are different as a result of agitation and chemical changes. An example of a chemical distinction is that red wine is more likely to become bitter if boiled rather than simmered.

Reduction depends on evaporation, not necessarily boiling. This is about as basic as cooking gets.

Some liquids simmer and boil at higher or lower temperatures than water, although with most foods the processes occur at similar temperatures. They tend to occur lower with alcoholic beverages.

Above the boiling point (BP) of your particular solution, you get all sorts of interesting things falling within the general class of "superheating," including plasmas (way cool). However, outside of the water in a very clean glass in the microwave experiment (no plasma :cry:, explosive phase change :blush:), it's difficult to superheat in a visible and meaningful way at home. It's also not safe to fool around with, unless you have a pretty good idea of what you're doing and take adequate precautions. So, hold off on the microwave experiment. :crazy:

As to 50/50 red wine/honey -- sounds like a syrup for fruit or ice cream. If you're looking for a "red wine reduction" suitable for steak that probably isn't it.

A properly managed reduction will require occasional stirring. The total amount of time depends on how closely you approach the BP, the size and shape of the pan, the amount of liquid, etc.

Hope this helps,
BDL
post #6 of 12
I have seen the results of the water in the microwave trick. When it changed state it blew the door open breaking both latches :lol: reducing something with that much sugar sounds like a way to make candy if you don't keep an eye on things.
post #7 of 12
3 hours sounds like a really long time, plus a really poor way of writing a recipe. What you really want to know is how far it needs to be reduced. Depending on heat level I could reduce something down to almost dry within a matter of 10-20 minutes, depending on volume or I could slowly reduce something for 3+ hours and barely have it reduced by 1/4. Saying to reduce it for 3 hours gives you absolutely no information.
post #8 of 12
Yep, the difference between water reaching the boiling point when it has a chance to create many small bubbles along the way and when it suddenly creates ONE LARGE bubble is a pretty neat physics demonstration. Safety goggles recommended.

As others have said reduction is removing excess water ( usually, sometimes alcohol ) from a mixture. Depending on various environmental factors evaporation can occur at a reasonable rate at room temperature, no cooking involved. But most likely your mixture will spoil over the course of the days it will take before being reduced to the desired consistency. Homemade saurkraut doesn't count, it's different when fermentation is thrown in. Gee, I need to start fermenting beer again.

Anyway, the 3 hours for the wine and honey mix seems way off. Scorching the sugars seems too likely to occur. And I wonder what uses such a sauce might have - maybe replacing the marshmallows on the Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole?


mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
the way it was presented to me was as a glaze for a chicken dish. The recipe was given by a caterer, so the 3 hours was probably due to a large volume of ingredients.
post #10 of 12
Sounds like sweet, gooey chicken. A version of "haute barbecue?" It reminds me of something my Mom (who wasn't a good cook) would make for Passover. Who knows? Maybe it was great. Did you try it? How was it?

"3 hours" was likely (a) an exaggeration, and (b) a tall, narrow pot, on the "simmer" burner at its lowest setting. Certainly a 50/50 honey/wine mixture could be reduced to 50% in less than an hour at a sufficiently gentle simmer to prevent problems.

Watch out for "red wine reductions," in general. It requires some work to keep red wine from becoming bitter as the tannins react to the cooking processes. A good strategy, as here, is to use sweeteners and control the heat. Not to say that you shouldn't do red wine reductions. Just watch out for high temperatures or any herbs or other seasoning which will highlight bitterness.

BDL
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
I think that explains why my cabernet pasta sauce was awesome the first time I made it, and terrible the second.
post #12 of 12
The problem with basic reductions is that they arent so basic. Making a proper reduction takes time, patience and foresight. You need to be able to stir, check viscosity and flavors regularly. It is very easy to burn one, especially when it is high in protien or sugar and not even know until its too late. 3 hours was so it could be brought up to a simmer under med low heat and have the heat reduced to low and let it sit and cook over time so that it was less likely to burn and let the flavors develop. Remember that most recipes are written for the inexperienced home cook and not the professional or at home expert.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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