Balsamic vinegar is made from grapes just like wine vinegar but is considered different from wine vinegar because the juice has not been fermented. Balsamic vinegar has the tartness that you would expect from any vinegar as well as a characteristic sweetness and depth of flavor. Its unique properties make it a versatile ingredient that works in several roles. You can use it for any of the following applications:
Balsamic vinegar makes an excellent marinade for most kinds of animal proteins, especially when combined with other seasonings like mustard or garlic. It is known as an effective meat tenderizer that works for chicken, pork, and steak. Its viscosity helps it to sit on the surface of the meat and soak in rather than run off the way thinner liquids would. The ideal balsamic vinegar to use as a marinade is one that has been aged for at least 12 years.
You can use balsamic vinegar in a process called maceration. Add it to strawberries or other berries along with sugar and let it sit. The vinegar helps to soften and flavor the fruit while the juices are drawn out to create a kind of syrup. Macerated berries can be used as a topping for ice cream, cake, or custard. The process also works on stone fruit like peaches. Use a younger balsamic vinegar for maceration. The flavor won’t be as sharp so that it won’t overpower the fruit’s taste.
In braising liquid
Braising involves stewing food in a liquid at a relatively low temperature. Adding some balsamic vinegar towards the end of the cooking time can brighten flavors. Balsamic vinegar’s acidity, combined with its mild sweetness, can deepen the flavors of meat and vegetables.
To make a reduction
Reduced balsamic vinegar is a versatile addition to both sweet and savory dishes. Reducing the vinegar gives it the ideal consistency for pouring over foods without running off. A balsamic reduction is a flavorful and visually attractive addition to meats, cheese, or vegetables, and you can even drizzle it over ice cream like chocolate or raspberry syrup. You can use your reduced balsamic vinegar as a glaze to coat the exterior of meats that are to be roasted or grilled. It is a popular option for coating salmon fillets as well.
On the surface of the protein, the balsamic vinegar reduction will caramelize to produce a tart and fruity flavor. The acidity of the vinegar can cut through fatty meats, and the sweetness can lessen the bitterness of some vegetables.
You can deglaze a pan with balsamic vinegar to make a simple pan sauce. Pan sauces are made from the juices produced when you cook meat and are great for adding flavor and moisture to your food. Add a little balsamic vinegar to the liquid in the pan while it is still warm and reduce to make the sauce.
In a salad dressing
A basic balsamic vinaigrette is arguably the best known and easiest way to use balsamic vinegar. The fact that balsamic vinegar is sweet makes it a more balanced option for making a salad dressing compared to wine vinegar. At its simplest, a balsamic vinaigrette is just a combination of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. For a thicker and more sophisticated version, you can add some parmesan cheese and a little mustard.