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Everyday Balsamic Vinegar


lperry
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There's a nice thread on the high-end, aged, Italian balsamic vinegars, but I could not find one on the lower-end balsamics.  Balsamic vinegar is something that people like to give me, and, as a result, I haven't bought any in years.  I just finished off a bottle of Claudio's 10 year-old, and I liked it very much for salad dressings and reductions.  Now I'm ready to head out and buy some more, and I was hoping for some ideas on where to start.  Does anyone have a favorite that is available locally?

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I bought the Costco vinegar a very long time ago when it came in two, large, glass bottles per package.  I wasn't really happy with the flavor.  I saw the new bottle and was afraid to buy it for that reason.  This new one is better?

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Cook's Illustrated or America's Test Kitchen did a taste-off of balsamic vinegars some years ago, and their top-rated one was the Whole Foods 365 Brand regular bottling, not the "organic" one. It was the least expensive one as well. The price has gone up a bit since then, but it is still my go-to every day balsamico.

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Una pregunta for balsamico lovers: does anyone think that the flavors the vinegar imparts are often too sweet for everyday use?

I do, and I think it's a terribly overused ingredient.

I'm not talking sugar (sugar, after all, is an everyday ingredient); merely that cooks - restaurants in particular - tend to overload dishes with balsamico. Why? I don't know why.

Mixed greens with candied walnuts, blue cheese, truffle oil, and balsamico. <--- This is one dish I will never order for at least four, maybe five, reasons: it is grotesque in a scary-clown-dream sort of way.

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Una pregunta for balsamico lovers: does anyone think that the flavors the vinegar imparts are often too sweet for everyday use?

It depends on the dish.  I use balsamic vinegar in a mushroom, red wine "marmalade" I serve with mushroom risotto, and I like small quantities with bitter greens, chard in particular, because it helps balance the flavor profile.  It works well with asparagus for the same reason.  I think it's like any other ingredient; it can be overused, but it can also be wonderful in the right context.

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It depends on the dish.  I use balsamic vinegar in a mushroom, red wine "marmalade" I serve with mushroom risotto, and I like small quantities with bitter greens, chard in particular, because it helps balance the flavor profile.  It works well with asparagus for the same reason.  I think it's like any other ingredient; it can be overused, but it can also be wonderful in the right context.

I tend to use it most with bitter greens and other ingredients that can benefit from the contrasting sweetness.  I wouldn't say I use it real frequently.  The Kirkland bottle on the kitchen counter has been there for quite some time.  Sometimes I buy the 365 brand instead or Trader Joe's.  I buy a lot of oils and vinegars at TJ's.

 In terms of everyday, I more often use white balsamic, which is crisper, cleaner, and less sweet.  I use that a lot in salad dressings.  The white balsamic I've been using most is from Sapore, the olive oil store near Eastern Market.  Before that, I used to keep Trader Joe's on hand.  (I realize it's a different thing and not what people are talking about when they're talking about balsamic vinegar, but I use white more than the standard type.)

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I've been using white balsamic more lately and agree with Pat that it provides a brightness similar to citrus or a splash of crisp white wine and heightens flavor (and probably cuts back on salt).

Balsamic vinegar is great for salad dressings and sauces, even stews and braises. It's transforming splashed on lentil soup.

Maybe it's chefs' little darling now? Trendy or trite?

I really don't eat out enough to know, so, however much it's used out there isn't influencing how I use it at home.

eta: some very good balsamics are very easy to find at discount stores nowadays. My bottle of Passione white balsamic is from Home Goods. So, perhaps for the home cook, it's being used more because the good stuff is more accessible and not a splurge or gourmet gift from Williams-Sonoma.

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I have ended up w/ a surplus of vinegar - my DH came home w/ his pantry, & I have so much vinegar, I can't think of how I could use it, even w/ cleaning-so, other than pickled veg in my future, how can I utilize all these bottles of vinegar?

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I have ended up w/ a surplus of vinegar - my DH came home w/ his pantry, & I have so much vinegar, I can't think of how I could use it, even w/ cleaning-so, other than pickled veg in my future, how can I utilize all these bottles of vinegar?

It keeps forever, so you don't have to worry about using it before it spoils. Make quick pickles with basically any vegetable. Make shrubs (macerate fruit or berries in vinegar with some sugar, dilute for beverages). Use for deglazing pans. White vinegars can be use for housecleaning purposes (cuts grease, cleans mirrors and glass).
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Una pregunta for balsamico lovers: does anyone think that the flavors the vinegar imparts are often too sweet for everyday use?

I do, and I think it's a terribly overused ingredient.

I'm not talking sugar (sugar, after all, is an everyday ingredient); merely that cooks - restaurants in particular - tend to overload dishes with balsamico. Why? I don't know why.

Mixed greens with candied walnuts, blue cheese, truffle oil, and balsamico. <--- This is one dish I will never order for at least four, maybe five, reasons: it is grotesque in a scary-clown-dream sort of way.

Don, I don't think I've ever more thoroughly agreed with anything you've posted than with this. I think any type of balsamic vinegar in a dressing for a green salad is a terrible, terrible mistake. Your scary, grotesque salad is scary and grotesque. I can imagine a superb blue cheese, perhaps gorgonzola, with three or four drops of thick, lovely, balsamic vinegar, as something not grotesque but sublime. Add that other stuff and I'd run screaming from the table.

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1 hour ago, DaveO said:

I take your word for it.  But is this the same brand that can sell for over $800 per bottle??

If so I’ll pass. :)

De gustibus

This sold for about $160.

If it was aged for 50 years, it would have sold for $400+. It's not about a "brand" but about the length of the aging and the process by which it's made. You can tell because of the designation "extravecchio" and the fact that this bottle has the coveted "DOP".

What Americans know as balsamic vinegar is basically sugar water with barely any wine and a lot of food coloring. I'll pass on those, many thanks.

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