They (the proverbial they) say you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I beg to differ. I’m going to show you how to make the best Balsamic vinegar you ever had (within reason) out of the cheapest balsamic vinegar you can buy.
Considered a wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar is made from un-fermented grape pressings, not wine. The pressings are boiled down to a syrup and aged by rules, hundreds of years old. The real deal balsamic, only made in two provinces of Emilia-Romagna, Modena and Reggio Emilia, is then placed in unsealed oak barrels with a vinegar “mother” and allowed to turn to vinegar. As it ages the mother will reduce the amount of liquid available and that liquid, now vinegar, will be transferred to barrels made from different woods to add to the complexity of the flavor profile over years. This process takes a minimum of 12 years by law and as much as 100. The 100 year aged Grande Vecchio vinegar below has been treated in just such a way.
Balsamic vinegar like the one pictured above goes for $361.00 for 2.4 oz on line. I’m sure it would be amazing, but I can’t afford nor justify spending that much money on vinegar, no matter how good it might be. Good “real” aged balsamic vinegars can be sipped straight from the bottle like a fine liqueur. But wait, there is another process, a more modern process, to make balsamic vinegar that takes hours instead of years, even if it doesn’t qualify as the real thing.
The modern method uses huge presses, heat and adds sugar instead of letting time reduce and concentrate the natural sweetness of the grapes. This grocery store stuff is not to be consumed straight from the bottle in a good crystal glass, but treated properly it can be very nice for dressings and cooking and will cost you less than $6 per liter.
The thing to do is to find a large bottle of nice acidic, sweet, inexpensive grocery store balsamic vinegar and reduce it to a syrup by gently boiling it down for a couple of hours. Just pour the whole bottle into a sauce pan and bring to a slow rolling boil. Make sure you save a little to taste the difference. Reduce by at least 1/2. I bring it down by 3/4. But God knows, don’t burn it. It smells terrible. Let it cool and then use it over meat or in dressings. Taste the difference, you’ll love it. Note: when it cools it will be much thicker. I’d start by reducing only by 1/2 if it is your first try at it.
This isn’t really as important as you might think. Find a nice bottle and try it as I suggested. If it works great, if it doesn’t try another. You’ll only be out $3-6 but when you find the one that works stick with it, you’ll use it a lot.
Farm on, you Fat Farmers let me know what you think – Jughandle