Aged 12 Years or More
- These balsamic vinegars are meant to be savored by the drop rather than mixed with other ingredients in salad dressings or used as a marinade. Try a few drops on rich vanilla ice cream, whole strawberries or on thin wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The 100-millimeter bottle of Modena balsamic vinegar will have a recognizable bulb shape and a red or gold foil seal over the cap. Regular vinegar cannot be substituted for aged balsamic vinegar. Price ranges from $50 to $500 for a bottle aged 150 years, as of 2011.
Aged Three to 11 Years
- Use vinegars aged up to 12 years as a condiment or seasoning. The vinegars have not been aged as long so they're not as expensive. Regular vinegar, still not as complex, is not a substitute. Sprinkle over salads, cheeses, shrimp, asparagus and chicken. Balsamic vinegars aged three to five years are appropriate for use in vinaigrettes, for dipping breads and crackers and to use in cooking. Add at the last minute before serving so none of the taste is lost through evaporation.
- Commercial-grade balsamic isn't really true balsamic vinegar but a mimic made using wine vinegar, food coloring, sugar and flavorings. Commercial-grade balsamic is what's found in grocery stores. It costs from $3 to $15 for an 8 oz. bottle, as of 2011. Red or white wine vinegar with added brown sugar can be used as a substitute. Apple cider vinegar with added sugar would also work, although cider vinegar has a sharper taste than wine vinegar. White vinegar would not be satisfactory.
- True aceto balsamic vinegar has only been known outside of Italy since the late 1970s. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale has been made for the last thousand years. The recipe and process for making balsamic vinegar was kept as secret and was never sold commercially. The first reference to balsamic vinegar was in 1046 when a small bottle was given to Emperor Enrico III of Franconia.