Despite being widely used in Italy for generations, balsamic vinegar has become one of the hottest food trends in the last twenty years.
Lower grades and even imitations have begun to appear as demand has increased. Use this guide to the different types of balsamic vinegar to help you navigate grocery store shelves and understand the products you’re buying.
It’s All About the Label
Small differences in the wording on balsamic vinegar labels can mean big differences in what’s inside the bottle. Balsamic vinegar is classified into three types: traditional balsamic vinegar, commercial-grade balsamic vinegar, and condiment grade balsamic vinegar. Within each grade, several varieties may be available.
Balsamic Vinegar Varieties
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
Traditional balsamic vinegar is sometimes referred to as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena or Vinegar Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia is produced in the Italian regions of Modena or Reggio Emilia. Making these traditional vinegar takes years and results in a product that is extremely thick, glossy, and flavorful. This type of balsamic vinegar is made only from Trebbiano or Lambrusco grapes.
The juice from these grapes is aged in wooden barrels for 12 to 18 years to develop its distinct flavor. Traditional balsamic vinegar is the highest grade available and the most expensive.
Commercial-Grade Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar of commercial-grade is produced on a mass scale and aged for a short period, if at all. These kinds of vinegar are typically made using wine vinegar and contain caramel coloring, thickeners, and flavoring.
If commercial grade balsamic vinegar is produced in Modena, it may be labeled simply as “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.” Domestic vinegar made in the United States or other regions is not permitted to bear the Modena label. These kinds of vinegar retain their distinct sweet and sour flavor and are ideal for salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.
Condiment-Grade Balsamic Vinegar
This label is given to a variety of balsamic kinds of vinegar that do not meet the stringent requirements for Traditional Balsamic Vinegar but have been made with more time and care than commercial grades. For example, vinegar produced outside Modena but made using the same techniques as Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena may be labeled condiment grade balsamic vinegar.
Vinegar made according to traditional standards and within Italy’s designated regions but aged for less than 12 years are also considered condiment grade. Balsamic vinegars of the condiment grade may bear the labels “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI,” “salsa balsamica,” “salsa di mosto cotto” or “condimento balsamico.” These types of vinegar provide flavor that’s similar to the traditional balsamic vinegar but it’s available at a more reasonable price.
Balsamic Vinegar Storage
Balsamic vinegar can be kept in a closed container at room temperature indefinitely. Although the color may slightly darken and solids may precipitate out, this is normal and does not indicate spoilage. Store between 40 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve the best flavor.
Consuming balsamic vinegar may help people feel fuller for longer periods. Even though it was conducted on rats, one study concluded that balsamic vinegar might help lower blood pressure. According to this study, adding balsamic vinegar to foods regularly may help reduce high blood pressure over time. This may be true if a person replaces fatty foods like butter and oil with vinegar, thereby reducing the total amount of fat consumed.
Health Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar
The following are some of the health benefits of balsamic vinegar:
Improving Skin Health
Antimicrobial compounds, acetic acid, and antioxidants are all found in balsamic vinegar. These ingredients may aid in the improvement of a person’s complexion over time.
Other clear kinds of vinegar have been used topically to help treat acne. On the other hand, Balsamic vinegar can cause stains and should not be applied directly to the skin.
Blood Sugar Control
According to research, this popular salad dressing ingredient has various health benefits. When consumed as part of a meal, balsamic vinegar aids in blood sugar regulation. According to one review of the scientific effects of vinegar, balsamic vinegar has an anti glycemic effect when consumed, which means that a person’s blood sugar will spike less dramatically after a meal. According to the study, vinegar can help create a blood sugar plateau for up to 5 hours after eating.
Encouraging Healthy Digestion
The active ingredient in balsamic vinegar is acetic acid. This acid contains probiotic strains that aid digestion. Acetic acid probiotics can help promote good gut health and digestion while also supporting overall immune function.
Balsamic vinegar may aid in cholesterol reduction. Balsamic vinegar’s antioxidants help to block toxic cells in the body that can raise cholesterol levels.
According to one study done on rabbits who had high cholesterol, consuming balsamic vinegar may help lower cholesterol levels and maintain lowered cholesterol levels.
Aid Weight loss
Balsamic vinegar’s probiotics can also help people feel fuller for longer. According to some studies, people who add vinegar to their morning meals may consume fewer calories throughout the day.
Promote Wound Healing
For many years, balsamic vinegar has been used to treat wounds.
Balsamic vinegar is said to have antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. However, these claims have not been thoroughly investigated.
Lower Blood Pressure
Consuming balsamic vinegar may help people feel fuller for longer periods of time. Despite the fact that it was conducted on rats, one study concluded that balsamic vinegar might help lower blood pressure. According to this study, adding balsamic vinegar to foods regularly may help reduce high blood pressure over time. This may be true if a person replaces fatty foods like butter and oil with vinegar, thereby reducing the total amount of fat consumed.
Balsamic vinegar is sometimes used to treat congestion. A person can achieve this by adding a few drops of vinegar to steaming water and inhaling the vapor.
Getting Rid of Acid Reflux
Balsamic vinegar can be used to help reduce acid reflux or heartburn. This remedy may not work for everyone, so start with small doses and wait several hours to see if it improves or worsens symptoms.
Enhancing Blood Circulation
Grapes are used to making balsamic vinegar. According to research, grapes are known to prevent cardiac disease. They do so by preventing the accumulation of platelets in blood vessels. Polyphenols are also found in balsamic vinegar. Researchers are looking into how polyphenols help with blood circulation, but so far, the evidence is inconclusive.
Using Balsamic Vinegar in Everyday Life
You’re missing out if you only think using balsamic vinegar when you’re making salad. This sweet and tangy vinegar is one of my favorite secret ingredients, and I’ve discovered various ways to incorporate it into my everyday cooking.
- Finishing Sauces and Soups
Balsamic vinegar and ripe summer tomatoes have a well-known love affair. It’s not difficult to progress from that simple summer salad to tomato-based soups and sauces. I finish these dishes with a splash of balsamic vinegar to bring the flavors together.
- In Braised Dishes
While balsamic at the end of cooking adds a splash of brightness, using a little balsamic as part of the liquid in a braise gives the entire dish a deep, rich, slightly sweet flavor, as in this dish for braised FrenchOnion Chicken or this one for braised spring radishes. Consider it like wine, and combine it with the broth or other liquid.
- Reduced to a Syrup
I enjoy drizzled reduced balsamic syrup over a scoop of vanilla ice cream especially if there are strawberries involved. If you have a good balsamic, reducing it isn’t always necessary. However, if you’re working with a basic balsamic, combine a cup or so with some sugar in a small saucepan. A stick of cinnamon is also a nice addition. Allow it to reduce until it is syrupy, then chill before using.
- For Marinating Meat and Tofu
Balsamic vinegar is one of my favorite vinegar to use for marinating meat and tofu with some sliced shallots and a dollop of mustard. It goes well with steaks and various grilled meats, but I also use it with large portabella mushrooms and tofu.
- Soda and Cocktails
Vinegar-based shrubs are definitely having a moment. It has a sweet flavor profile. It can be diluted in soda water to make a very grown-up fizzy drink — try this Strawberry Balsamic Soda recipe! In cocktails, I like balsamic vinegar mixed with bourbon or rye whiskey.