Last update on 2017-08-15 PST - Details
Balsamic vinegar has many uses. Not only is it an excellent condiment, it’s a perfect marinade for meat, an additive to soup to give it a tastier note, and as a salad dressing, it’s just exemplary. But unlike regular vinegar that you pour into a dish, you use Balsamic vinegar in drops and it’s difficult to consume a bottle of this condiment in one setting. So the questions that come to mind are: does balsamic vinegar go bad? If so, how long can I store it before I decide to throw it away? What can I do to extend its shelf life?
Balsamic vinegar can be expensive and you would think twice about throwing it away especially if you’ve bought the premium ones. The reason behind it is that it’s made in small batches and it takes years before it’s marketable. The rarer the product the pricier it gets.
How is Balsamic Vinegar Produced?
Originally from Italy, Balsamic vinegar is produced by the gradual reduction of Trebbiano grape juice. The Trebbiano variety is chosen for its high sugar content and its fresh juice is heated and distilled and what’s left of it is allowed to ferment for several years in different wooden barrels. The resulting product is dark caramel colored, thick and sweet liquid.
While there are commercial versions that you can buy over the counter, these are made from artificial reduction and fermentation process. It would look like, but it will definitely not taste like the real thing. It lacks the complex sweetness of the traditional Balsamic vinegar and most of all, it lacks its subtlety. The acidic sting of the commercial version is just too apparent and it’s obviously made to taste a little sweeter.
Does Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad? How Can You Tell
So, does balsamic vinegar go bad? Yes, it does. Just like any condiment, it will be attacked by bacteria when left opened. If the liquid looks a bit cloudy, that means that bacterial activity has already begun and a gelatinous substance is forming up. It will affect its taste by changing its characteristic sweetness and mild acidity into something harshly and oppressively acidic. If you open a previously used bottle and the content smells rancid, you better throw it away because it’s not good anymore.
After opening, the vinegar is good for 3 to 5 years provided that it’s stored properly according to Old Town Oil, a respected oil, and vinegar vendor. Like all fermented grapes, this vinegar is sensitive to:
- Heat—This encourages bacterial growth which contributes to its fast rancidity. This also greatly affects its taste over time so you have to store it in a cool place.
- Light—A study by the Australian Wine Institute has shown that fermented grape products like wine and vinegar stored in clear bottles change its taste with just hours of exposure to a fluorescent lamp. In the same study, they also found out that wine stored in green bottles are more resistant to light.
- Evaporation—If the vinegar is left to evaporate, it will solidify. These is already a problem even while it’s still in the process of fermentation. To prevent it from happening, vinegar makers infuse old barrels with vinegar from previous batches.
On the other hand, if the vinegar remains in its original container unopened, you can store it indefinitely. In fact, some chefs would even buy a 12-year old Balsamic vinegar and let it age for more years. Doing this, they believe will improve the vinegar’s taste.
Some premium bottles have a tag of how many years it has been aged. Some come with a 12, 18 or even a 25-year tag. Here, the number is more an emblem of its taste and quality and you can even hear stories of century-old vinegar that has been passed down from previous generations and are treated like heirlooms.
If you have a bottle of Balsamic vinegar, you can transform any regular food into something luxurious. While a bottle this condiment can come at a price, you only use it in drops so it’s not really that expensive if you think about it. The real challenge is how to store it so that it stays with you and you don’t end up throwing its bottle prematurely. Here are some final tips:
- Refrigerate your newly opened bottle of Balsamic vinegar. If you have a cool cupboard, that will also do the job.
- Don’t forget to replace the cap after each use and avoid exposing it to sunlight or any light for that matter.
- Buy only vinegar that is stored in dark bottles. Avoid those commercially made ones that are stored in transparent plastic containers.
- If the taste has changed drastically or it starts to smell rancid, now is the right time to throw it out.
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