How Much Does Good Balsamic Vinegar Cost?
Balsamic vinegar is an essential part of many Italian and Mediterranean dishes. It can be used to make salad dressings, marinades, and dessert sauces. It’s also great on grilled vegetables and meats. In fact, it’s one of the most versatile condiments you can own.
If you’re a seasoned home cook, you know that when it comes to adding flavor to your meals, nothing beats quality ingredients. But even the best ingredients can be costly, especially when you’re shopping for something as delicate as balsamic vinegar.
Luckily, there are some excellent options for less-expensive versions of the classic condiment that don’t sacrifice quality. With a few easy tips, you can find the best balsamic vinegar for your kitchen and budget.
The first and most important factor to consider is the label. The quality of the balsamic vinegar you buy will depend on the region it’s from and how long it’s been aged. For starters, a top-of-the-line balsamic vinegar will be produced in Modena or Reggio Emilia, and will be marked with a DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) or PDO (Protected Geographical Indication) stamp.
You can also look for a product that’s made from only grape must and that has been aged in barrels for at least 12 years. This means that you’re getting a true, authentic vinegar made in Italy and that has a deep, syrupy consistency.
That said, there are a lot of non-traditional, mass-produced balsamic vinegars on the market that don’t fall into these categories. These slushy and unappealing products are often just a mix of wine vinegar and the must from a traditional balsamic, so they’re not as complex or flavorful as the real thing.
Another thing to watch out for is the packaging. Some cheaper vinegars will use a plastic bottle and have a label that says “Keep out of reach of children.” That’s fine, but if your kids are still small and you don’t want them to be exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals, go for a glass or ceramic jar instead.
Some of these bottles will also say to store them in the refrigerator. While this is a good idea for some types of balsamic vinegar, you’ll need to put it in the pantry or cooler if you want to keep it fresh.
The price of real balsamic can vary widely depending on the region, the type of grape must used, and the length of aging that it goes through. The cost of these kinds of vinegar can range from several dollars to hundreds of dollars, so be sure to shop around and find a good deal.
For example, the cheapest balsamic you can find is produced in Italy by a family-run trattoria near Bologna that’s been making and selling the stuff for more than 80 years. It’s produced without added colorings or flavors, just grape must and wine vinegar, and it’s an excellent value for a taste of Italy that you can have in your own kitchen.