25 Balsamic Vinegar Recipes

A selection of balsamic vinegars in glass bottles

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A bottle of balsamic vinegar made in the traditional style in Modena, Italy, can run into hundreds of dollars. These top-tier products carry a flavor so complex, with undertones of cherries, chocolate, molasses, and wood smoke, they are best enjoyed by the drizzle on a piece of cheese or fresh fruit or even a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Balsamic vinegar starts with the must (the crushed juice, seeds, skins, and stems) of sweet white grapes, usually the trebbiano variety grown in the Emilia-Romagna region. The must gets cooked down, strained, and aged for up to 12 years in a variety of wooden casks, beginning with oak and progressing through ash, chestnut, juniper, and other types of wood. During this process, the grape juice slowly sweetens and thickens, resulting in balsamic's syrupy characteristic.

The everyday balsamic found in U.S. grocery stores does not follow the same strict production standards, but many brands bottle a perfectly acceptable and affordable stand-in for use in vinaigrettes and cooking, making it a versatile pantry staple.