Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Balsamic Vinegar

The greatness of balsamic vinegar?

By its very nature, the shelf-life of balsamic vinegar is indefinite. 


A true, authentic balsamic vinegar is aged for years in wooden barrels/casks in Moderna, Italy. The proud label “acento balsamico tradizionale” ensures for a steep purchase price.

Like most material things of this world, the finer it is, the more it will cost.

A less expensive, less flavorful version can be found at any local grocery store. The difference between two is that the more humble, commercial-grade balsamic actually has additives in order to mimic the true, authentic tartness of Italian balsamic (sweetener, caramel color, etc.)

While many commercial-grade balsamic vinegars actually post a “best by” date on the label, the Vinegar Institute has conducted surveys, confirming that balsamic vinegar had un unlimited shelf-life (

That being said, occasionally you may notice a gel-like substance/film floating in the vinegar. This is known as the “Mother” and is harmless. It is produced as a part of the fermentation process (basically, not all of the carbohydrates in the grapes have been converted to acetic acid). Most of the true, barrel-aged balsamic vinegars form Mothers when not used on a daily basis. Simply strain to remove (again, no problems will occur if consumed). Since most commercial-balsamic vinegars are pasteurized, they will not develop a Mother.

If a sedimentation forms at the bottom of the jar, simply shake and it should dissolve into the liquid. Sedimentation simply is the remnants of grape skin that did not completely dissolve (it is not an indicator that the balsamic has “gone bad.”)

One of my favorite used of balsamic vinegar is reducing the sweet/tart flavor into a thick, syrup-like sauce. Very easy to accomplish: simply pour the vinegar into a sauté pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Allow the vinegar to boil, then simmer for about 2-4 minutes, whisking continuously until the viscosity resembles a thin-syrup. Remove the sauté pan from the heat.

The reason that one should not reduce the balsamic to a thick-syrup state on the heat? The balsamic continues to thicken, even off the heat (from the heat already generated on the pan and temperature of sauce).

When ready to plate, use a spoon to swirl designs/transfer into a squeeze bottle in order to have more control when decorating the plate. Reduced balsamic vinegar is a brilliant addition to salads, fish, even poultry, eggs and red meat.

A “tried-and-true” pairing of reduced balsamic vinegar? Heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil. Fantastic appetizer/amuse bouche/pass-around hors d’oeuvre. A healthier option? Replace the mozzarella cheese with artichokes. Yum!

A healthy, easy way to dress up zucchini/carrots/jicama? First grate all vegetables with a cheese grater, then combine with a sesame dressing:

¼ cup low sodium ponzu sauce (similar to soy sauce, but with a hint of lemon)
1 Tbsp sesame seed oil
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lime zest
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoky paprika
1 tsp garlic (powder or freshly chopped)
1 small shallot (fine dice)
2 tsp agave nectar (optional – if wanting a touch more “sweet”)

Since the vegetables are grated in a fine manner, they do not need to be cooked (again, best way to consume food is in its natural state – your body will benefit the most from absorbing the most nutrients from raw food).

In plating, form the veggies into shapes (of your desire) and sprinkle with sesame seeds… drizzle reduced balsamic vinegar atop the dish.

Oh, the possibilities!

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers” – Laurie Colwin

Love y’all! ♥

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