Balsamic vinegar should be a staple ingredient in any kitchen. It’s a versatile liquid which can be used to make your meat sizzle, spice up any salad or vegetables, and even be drizzled on top of cheesy pasta dishes.
Balsamic vinegar has been made in Italy since the time of the Romans. Initially, it was used medicinally. However, over the years several people added it to recipes and a new trend was born. At the time, it was rare, since most balsamic vinegar stayed in the region where it was made. In fact, in the 19th century, mothers would often start creating a new batch when a daughter became engaged. The batch would then be ready in time to be part of the dowry on her wedding day!
What Is Balsamic Vinegar Made Of?
Most people assume that balsamic vinegar is made using wine. However, it is created from grapes. They need to be freshly crushed and the white grapes must contain the stems, seeds and skins. Once the grapes are crushed, they are boiled down, also known as reducing. This creates a syrupy liquid. In essence, this could be used.
However, the best balsamic vinegars are aged for several years. To age balsamic vinegar, it is transferred into a wooden barrel. These are stored in warm areas, such as lofts. The vinegar may be transferred to various different barrels. Each type of wood affects the final flavor of the balsamic vinegar. That’s why balsamic vinegar is full of different, sometimes conflicting, flavors. If it has been aged properly it will be a syrupy liquid, capable of flowing gently inside a glass. Most importantly, the taste will be both sweet and sour. The sweetness arrives as the vinegar hits your tongue, and the sharpness is added in as you swallow.
What Genuine Balsamic Vinegar Tastes Like
A genuine balsamic vinegar is made within the Emilia Romagna region or Modena, and will either be marked ‘DOP’ or ‘IGP’ (also referred to as ‘PGI’).
Having this on the label confirms the product is made using specific local ingredients and follows a strict recipe: that’s your guarantee of quality. A vinegar like this is usually aged for a minimum of 12 years. You should note, the Italian balsamic vinegar Modena PGI and DOP are expensive and you use them to finish a meal, not simply as an ingredient. The aroma is intense, adding a sweetness to every meal while simultaneously giving it a sharp bite.
Does Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad?
The initial storing of balsamic vinegar actually makes it alcoholic, while the second stage removes the alcohol. However, this does leave many people wondering how long they can store this substance for. In short, does balsamic vinegar go bad?
The bottom line is that balsamic vinegar is self-preserving and can’t really go bad. After all, it's aged for years before you open the bottle! However, most people agree that, once you’ve opened a bottle, it is best to use it within three to five years. After this time it is still safe to use but you’ll notice the flavor starts to change.
Balsamic vinegar should be in every kitchen. However, if you want to really enjoy it, you should have two bottles. A standard commercial one which can be used in recipes. The premium bottle, aged at least 12 years, is for drizzling on top of a dish and perfecting the flavor. It will be one of the best decisions you ever make.