Sometimes you end up in a party conversation about something as innocuous-sounding as balsamic vinegar. You’d be forgiven for thinking, “Why? Why did this person pin me down to rave about a 25-year-old Italian balsamic vinegar she just tried for the first time? What in the world?”
But to read the five-star reviews of our famous aged VSOP balsamic vinegar—far and away our best-selling condiment—is to get familiar with obsession. Simmered in copper cauldrons, then aged in wooden barrels for a full 25 years, the vinegar takes on a silky, unctuous quality reflecting the pure white Trebbiano grapes that comprise it. Its legions of fans are using it in salad dressing and on tomatoes, sure, but also on sandwiches, ice cream, in cocktails and over roasted veggies. Here are some of the favorite ways to use VSOP balsamico among its many, many aficionados.
Yep, just olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a bit of sea salt and a hit of pepper, and you’re there. Add Dijon and basil, if you like. Need more specifics? Mingle it with walnut oil, olive oil and sherry vinegar in a grape-Gorgonzola salad, for an out-of-this-world combo.
The next time you wonder whether a dish needs a final dusting of salt, pepper, olive oil or lemon, add balsamic vinegar to the list. This balsamic, of course. If you’re going to splurge on a pricier protein, like duck breasts, you want to make sure every ingredient involved is divine. That’s why we break out this vinegar; it’s both a cooking glaze for the accompanying figs and a drizzle on top. (It’s just as tasty, along with olive oil, on burrata!)
In your more forward-thinking moments, when you’re not rushed, you remember to finish your sandwiches with salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and olive oil. Why not excellent balsamic vinegar? If that sandwich has tomatoes, mozzarella, or basil inside, you can almost guarantee it’ll be a good fit. This sandwich features portobellos, meaty as can be, plus goat cheese, basil and sun-dried tomatoes. It is a dream with balsamic-marinated shallots and garlic.
If you’ve never macerated strawberries in balsamic vinegar, pepper, and sugar, then whoa, nelly, get yourself some strawberries. Equal parts silky-sweet and tart, with that peppery punch, the mix is a dream on vanilla panna cotta or ice cream. Same goes for these gorgeous strawberry parfaits, and this olive oil gelato. Even strawberries and goat cheese benefit from a sweet glaze of sugar and vinegar.
When you’re making your classic Italian dishes—the one people in your home request, whether verbally or mutely, with pleading eyes—consider breaking out this vinegar. Risotto can employ a number of Old World standbys—evoo; Parmigiano-Reggiano; mascarpone; Prosecco—with good vinegar right on that list. Much of the time, it’s an ideal finishing note.
It means “sweet-sour” in Italian. Agrodolce is a technique you should try at least once, as it’s so easy. Honey, vinegar, thyme and balsamic vinegar create a near-caramel to drizzle on top of these fat, luxe pork chops. The pearl onions you break out at Thanksgiving? Those are, more often than not, agrodolce, and they’re just the thing to break up a parade of heavy dishes.
Pork, chicken and even fish can benefit from a splash of balsamic, whether as a marinade—especially those first two heavy hitters—or a finishing note (consider scallops!) But remember that good balsamico can also be used to marinate peppers, as for this spicy grilled chicken salad, or this burrata made beautiful thanks to roasted red and yellow bells. And drizzled on top of grilled fresh Mission figs? Mamma mia!
Stay with us! There’s one more way—maybe the best way—to use your really fabulous bottle of balsamico. In your cocktail. (You wouldn’t want the supermarket stuff in there, would you?!) It makes for an incredible Bloody Mary, and a stunning Strawberry Bellini. If you think about it, Bellinis are often way too sweet, anyways!
Adding balsamic to braised meats adds an almost imperceptible tang and level of complexity that becomes sweeter and denser with long, slow cooking. The vinegar pairs just as beautifully with pork shoulder as it does with these Dutch-oven braised short ribs.