Looking for 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 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.”
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.
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?
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.
Makes about 1½ cups
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 cups (about ¾ pound) berries
- Pinch of salt
- To prepare: 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.
- 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.
- To preserve: Refrigerate, freeze, or can as desired.
- If you choose to refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. The gastrique will keep, covered, for up to 3 weeks.
- If you go the freezer route: Freeze the gastrique in a covered ice cube tray or small container for up to 6 months.
- If canning is more your style: 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.