Balsamic vinegar might be one of the most expensive purchases in your kitchen. In the last few decades, this Italian condiment has gained wider popularity across the globe. It is great for salad dressing, marinades, or to drizzle on top of fresh watermelon or strawberries.
A bottle of balsamic vinegar has probably been on your kitchen shelf for quite a while, you don’t exactly remember since when. Don’t worry, many other people might have the same situation. You might want to assure yourself whether your balsamic vinegar is still good for your next bowl of salad or it’s already time to discard it. Better safe than sorry, right?
Here are the most useful pieces of information you want to find out about balsamic vinegar; how to store it, how long it lasts, and most importantly how to tell if it’s already bad.
What is Balsamic Vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar (or Aceto balsamico in Italian) is a dark, intensely flavored, concentrated vinegar made of crushed grape and aged in a wooden barrel for several years. Some finest brands even go for 25 years and longer. It originates from the two neighboring Italian regions of Modena and Reggio Emilia. It is considered as one of Italy’s best culinary legacy.
In general, there are two different types; traditional balsamic vinegar and commercial balsamic vinegar (widely known as balsamic vinegar of Modena). The first is recognized as the top-quality item, while the latter is the more affordable option.
Due to its special characteristic and authenticity, this product is heavily regulated in the European Union and receives recognition of European Geographical Indication product, making the authentic balsamic vinegar as one of the most expensive food items which can easily cost you a few hundred bucks for the finest selection.
Shelf Life of Balsamic Vinegar
It is not exaggerating that authentic balsamic vinegar has no expiry date. Yes, you read it correctly. The high content of acid in the vinegar acts as a natural preservative.
Therefore, EU law doesn’t require to mention its shelf life on the label. However, its quality may slowly deteriorate after a certain period.
How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last?
Traditional balsamic vinegar with a much longer aging process lasts for 20+ years or longer. This makes it a food item that may be passed to the next generation. Meanwhile, the commercially prepared one typically stays at the best quality for 3 – 4 years.
How to Store Balsamic Vinegar
When stored properly balsamic vinegar can last for years. After opening the bottle, make sure you seal it tightly.
Closing the bottle is a critical point in storing balsamic vinegar to avoid contaminants which can cause spoilage. Subsequently, you need to keep it in a cool, dry area, away from the heat and light.
How to Tell if Balsamic Vinegar is Bad
Does balsamic vinegar spoil? That’s a good question to ask, especially after you have opened the bottle for a while.
One day you are doubting the storage condition of your balsamic vinegar. You might need to make sure if your vinegar is not spoiled before drizzling it onto your salad.
In this case, you should check if there is visible mold inside the bottle, change in color or taste, or strange smell. If you observe one of those conditions and you are not sure, you might want to consider getting a new bottle of balsamic vinegar.
When you have an opened bottle of balsamic vinegar for a long time, you may see sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Don’t panic, that is a by-product of the vinegar processing and is completely normal. Over time it occasionally develops into a thin floating sheet called “mother of vinegar” which is the natural mold that can be used to make a new batch of vinegar.
Yes, subject to proper storage. Be sure to check there is no strange smell or taste in it. While it is not mandatory, producers usually mention “best before” or “expiration date” on the label.
This date is an estimated period a bottle of balsamic vinegar stays at its best quality. Although it is still safe to consume after its expiry date, a decrease in quality, such as the flavor and taste, might be observed.
It is very unlikely, but still possible. The acidic property of balsamic vinegar provides an unfavorable condition for mold growth. When it is not stored properly, it allows contaminants to enter the bottle.
Refrigerating a bottle of balsamic vinegar is not necessary. Room temperature is enough to preserve its quality. It won’t go bad if it’s sealed tightly and kept in a dark and cool place.
Reduced balsamic vinegar (or simply known as reduction) is made by simmering this vinegar to enhance its flavor and create a thicker consistency. Other ingredients such as garlic, onion, or sugar may be added.
If you buy a bottle of reduced balsamic vinegar, store it in a refrigerator after opening. Make sure to close the lid tightly. If you make it yourself, it can last for up to 3 months with a similar storing method of a store-bought one.
As mentioned above, good quality balsamic vinegar will stay good as long as you always close the bottle tightly and store it properly in a cool, dark place. Proper storage is key to maintain food quality and safety, including for all types of vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.
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*Featured Photo by neillangan/depositphotos