Sweet-and-Sour Sauces


Preparation info

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By James Peterson

Published 1991

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A gastrique is prepared with approximately one part sugar to two parts wine vinegar by volume. Usually about 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) gastrique are used per quart (liter) of sauce, but the amount may vary depending on the type of sauce and the strength of the vinegar.

Heat ½ cup (100 grams) sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or in an untinned copper poêlon (used specifically for making caramel). When the sugar has melted and turned a deep red, pour ½ cup (125 milliliters) wine vinegar into the saucepan to dissolve the caramel and stop the cooking. Stand back in case the mixture spatters. Heat and stir the gastrique to make sure the caramelized sugar is completely dissolved in the vinegar. Even though this may seem like a large amount of gastrique, it is hard to prepare in smaller amounts. In any case, it will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Most classic recipes for gastrique suggest caramelizing the sugar by moistening it with the wine vinegar. Because of the high heat required to caramelize sugar, little if any vinegar remains in the gastrique when this method is used.

To use the gastrique in a sauce, pour small amounts into the sauce, not the other way around. Be careful to taste as you go; gastrique is powerful, and a few drops too many can spoil a sauce.

In classic French cooking, gastrique is used only in sweet-and-sour sauces or sauces containing fruit. When used discreetly, gastrique can enhance the flavor of other brown sauces as well (see “Using Gastrique”).