Monday, July 14, 2014

The Sweet-Tart Taste of Summer: Blueberry Gastrique

Now that summer fruits are coming on strong, of course it’s time for filling pies and jars of jam. But if you’re looking for other ways to get the most out of your berry bounty, gastrique might be the perfect vehicle for those extra pints you snagged at the farmers’ market or harvested at the pick-your-own farm.

The “Learn the Lingo” section of Sherri Brooks Vinton’s new book,  The Put ’em Up! Preserving Answer Book, describes gastrique as “a pungent vinegar-based sauce that is heavily reduced to take on a thick, syrupy texture” and serves as “a canvas for a featured flavoring, such as berries or citrus juice.”
Blueberries, sugar, and red wine vinegar: all you need to make gastrique
My own, far less technical take on this sweet-and-tart topping might be “the sauce that tastes just as good spooned over chicken as it does on a dish of good vanilla ice cream.” However you look at it, if you’ve considered food preservation but find jams intimidating, gastrique is an easy, flavorful way to get started.

After the jump, a recipe for blueberry gastrique, perfect for summer and beyond!

When caramelizing sugar, watch carefully for the change in color

Made with caramelized sugar that is then deglazed with vinegar, a little bit of this simple-to-prepare sauce goes a long way when served and lasts for a while in your fridge. If you’re inclined to put some up, try the boiling water method of canning or — for the ultimate in preserving simplicity — freezing the sauce in ice cube trays. Either way, you’ll thank yourself in the later months of the year, when the flavor of summer berries tastes miraculous. And isn’t that part of why we preserve food to begin with?
Gastrique (and our garden)
American pastry chef and cookbook author, David Lebovitz, recently speculated that, as “gastrique is a term that refers to stomach troubles, it’s possible that the tartness of the syrup was thought to aid in digestion of a rich dish.”

Origins of the term aside, I enjoyed my blueberry gastrique spooned over grilled chicken thighs and served on a bed of polenta, to soak up every last drop.

Blueberry Gastrique

Makes about 1½ cups

I can’t get enough of this sensational sauce. It’s easy, versatile, and delicious! The name may make it sound complicated but it is really so simple to make — and quite fun, too. The technique of making the caramel base is a basic kitchen skill you can use to create a lot of great recipes, like the sauce for flan, a butterscotch pudding, even lollipops, so it’s a useful one to have in your cooking repertoire — and it’s quite fascinating to witness, too. (Yes, I am a bit of a science geek.)

1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups (about ¾ pound) berries
Pinch of salt

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a light boil over medium-low heat. Do not stir. Cook until the sugar melts and begins to color slightly, 5 to 7 minutes, washing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush as necessary. Pour the vinegar into the pan, but be careful — the vinegar will hiss and spit a good bit. The caramel will harden when the liquid hits it but will dissolve in the vinegar as it simmers. Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the berries and continue to simmer until the sauce takes on the color and fragrance of the fruit and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Finish with a sprinkle of salt.

The sauce comes alive when the vinegar hits the caramelized sugar


Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. The gastrique will keep, covered, for up to 3 weeks.

Freeze: Freeze the gastrique in a covered ice cube tray or small container for up to 6 months.

Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle the gastrique into clean, hot 4-ounce jars. Use a bubble tool, or other nonmetallic implement, to release any trapped air. Wipe the rims, cover the jars, and screw the bands on just fingertip-tight. Process for 10 minutes. Cool for 24 hours. Check the seals and store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Recipe excerpted from The Put ’em Up! Preserving Answer Book © 2014 by Sherri Brooks Vinton. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

That dinner looks amazing!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Alee! (I take credit for making the gastrique and slicing nectarines...small contributions, comparatively.)