Get 10% OFF when you subscribe to our e-letter Subscribe Now!

[searchandfilter fields="search,post_types" post_types="post,product" types=",checkbox" headings="Search for: ,Search in:"]

Balsamic Vinegar: Better when Aged

A good balsamic vinegar can mean the difference between a salad that you can’t wait to dig your fork into, and one you find yourself pushing around your plate. Rich, dark and piquant, it’s a match made in heaven with high quality olive oil, and can help blur the line between savory snack and elegant dessert. Just the thought of its tart flavor on your tongue can jump-start your salivary glands into action. Why do we love it so? Let’s take a look at what makes this acidic seasoning so remarkable…

Vinegar History

Legend has it that vinegar was discovered in a Babylonian court around 5,000 BC after wine was left unattended until it fermented. However, its earliest known use was more than 10,000 years ago. First, vinegar was used as a food preservative, and then people discovered it could be useful in other applications. Lots of familiar names throughout history have found innovative ways to employ this wonderful liquid – Hippocrates used it medicinally for wound management around 420 BC and revered military leader Hannibal allegedly used it to dissolve boulders blocking the path of his army in battle! In the 10th century, Sung Tse recommended washing hands with sulfur and vinegar to prevent infection during autopsies and doctors in colonial America used it to help with a wide variety of ailments, from stomachache to poison ivy rashes. We’ve come a long way medicine-wise since then, but thanks to our distant ancestors, we have found numerous ways to enliven our salads and cooking with the delicious taste of vinegar.

How Vinegar Is Made

The process of making vinegar is fascinating. You start with any carbohydrate source – fruit, vegetable, honey or molasses, beer or wine, grains or whey and allow it to undergo a two-stage fermentation process. First, yeast ferments the naturally occurring simple sugars in the starting material to alcohol. Then, acetic acid bacteria oxidizes that alcohol to form acetic acid, which is responsible for the tartness and pungent odor associated with vinegar. In the United States, vinegar products must contain at least 4% acidity, while European countries have their own regional standards for acidity. Commercial vinegar can be made in as little as one day, but traditionally-made versions can take months or years to age to perfection. As it ages, it’s moved to progressively smaller and smaller barrels, ranging in size from about 75 liters to 10 liters. That longer fermentation mellows the vinegar and produces rich flavors, much like the process for aging wine!

Balsamic Vinegar and Other Vinegar Types

Vinegars are produced throughout the world, and the types are as varied as the countries that produce them. We know the ancient Babylonians sold vinegar flavored with fruit, honey and malt, and these types are still found today. People tend to use what they’ve got on hand – their local natural resources – to make vinegar. Hence, Southeast Asia is known for its mild coconut vinegar. Italy uses grapes for its famous balsamic vinegar, as does France to make a light-tasting champagne vinegar. Taiwan, Japan and other parts of Asia make earthy rice, potato, and even kombucha vinegars. And then there are some types, like apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar, that are made worldwide. My absolute favorite is balsamic vinegar- no surprise, given my Italian ancestry.

Did you know that balsamic vinegar is actually made from white grapes? Given its dark, gorgeous color, you’d think it would be made with red grapes! Balsamic vinegar is traditionally made in Modena, Italy from sweet, local Trebbiano white grapes that have been picked at the absolute last minute for peak flavor. The grapes are then pressed to expel the grape juice, which is allowed to slowly ferment and age in wood casks to concentrate the flavor and get that deep wine hue. The result is an absolutely delicious, almost syrupy, wine-colored liquid with an unmistakably sweet and sour tang that enhances virtually everything you put it on! 

High quality balsamic vinegar only contains natural fruit sugars from the grapes, while lesser quality versions may have added sugars. According to the USDA, one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar contains 2.4 grams of sugar and 2.7 grams of carbohydrates. So, in moderation, balsamic vinegar could be considered keto-friendly. Some choose to mix it with another vinegar with negligible carbs or sugar, such as apple cider or white vinegar, to still get that balsamic taste. Another great thing about balsamic vinegar is that – like most vinegars – it never goes bad stored at room temperature! Once opened, you probably want to consume it within 2 years and keep the cap tightly closed for best flavor and acidity.

Vervana Balsamic Vinegars

We offer two very different balsamic vinegars, here at Vervana – each chosen for its own special attributes.

Our Organic Balsamic Vinegar is 100% USA-made, starting with organic grapes grown in sunny California vineyards. Once pressed into juice, it is barrel-aged for about 2 years to allow the flavor to mature into a clean, dark and fresh-tasting balsamic vinegar – wonderful for dipping, salad vinaigrettes and for savory and decorative reductions. 

Vervana Fig Balsamic Vinegar starts off in Modena, Italy, where the grapes are pressed, then barrel-aged for a whopping 15 years for dynamically rich flavor and consistency. After the long waiting period is over, the Modena balsamic makes its way to California, where it is enhanced with the 100% natural sweetness of figs – no added sugars. The result? A divine, sweet, almost syrupy balsamic vinegar that can transform everyday salads, cheeses or fruits into decadent treats.  


Balsamic Vinegar Recipes

I love an easy balsamic vinaigrette to dress up my salads, and below are a few easy recipes that anyone can make in a flash. All you have to do is whisk together the ingredients in a small bowl, or combine them in a small jar and shake until emulsified (I like the jar best, since you can easily shake it up as needed).

Besides being super easy to make, these balsamic vinaigrette recipes are so much healthier for you than ready-made, store-bought vinaigrettes that can contain all kinds of ingredients you don’t want:  soybean oil, added sugars, stabilizing additives, artificial colors and preservatives – no thank you!

When making balsamic vinaigrettes yourself with 100% cold-pressed olive oils, you get not only delectable flavor but the unparalleled nutrition and benefits from high quality, polyphenol-rich olive oil.

I happen like the flavor of olive oil so much, I prefer not to add much vinegar to my dressings; hence the varying amounts below. When making the recipes below, I suggest starting conservatively with the balsamic vinegar, then add more to taste. 

As finishing touches, Vervana natural, Savory Salt Blend and Pepper & Juniper Blend help elevate these dressings to their highest levels. Why degrade an otherwise healthy homemade balsamic vinaigrette with table salt that may contain chemical additives and bleaching compounds? Vervana Salt Blend is an all-natural mix of salts from around the world: pink Himalayan salt, California sea salt, and French sel gris, or gray salt. It enhances with diverse salt flavors as well as a wide variety of trace minerals, which actually offer some health benefit. Pepper & Juniper blend contributes not only the spiciness of black and white peppercorns, but a hint of citrus pine flavor from juniper berries – a unique complement to the tangy, sweet vinegar, savory salt blend and luscious flavors of olive oil.

Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

  • 1/3 cup Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp Organic Balsamic Vinegar or Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • Savory Salt Blend, a few grinds, to taste
  • Pepper & Juniper Blend, a few grinds, to taste

This dressing comes together in no time at all, and the lusciously smooth olive oil pairs seamlessly with either balsamic vinegar. For a sweeter vinaigrette, use the fig balsamic vinegar.

Tangy Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

  • 1/3 Cup Organic Koroneiki Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Organic Balsamic Vinegar or Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Natural Salt Blend, a few grinds, to taste
  • Pepper & Juniper Blend, a few grinds, to taste

For a delicious, tangy vinaigrette with a bit of a bite, nothing’s better than organic koroneiki olive oil with its distinctive peppery finish paired with robust Dijon mustard. Smoothed out with our balsamic vinegar, it’s the perfect combination of sweet and spicy that’ll have you coming back time and time again to this simple recipe; use fig vinegar for a sweeter vinaigrette.

Fig and Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

  • 1/3 cup of Crushed Garlic Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • Natural Salt Blend, a few grinds, to taste
  • Pepper and Juniper Blend, a few grinds, to taste

After stumbling on this amazing combination, this vinaigrette quickly became a favorite. As with the balsamic vinaigrette recipes above, you simply mix all the ingredients together, and – voila – you have a transformitive dressing or dip for bread or veggies.

Fig and Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

  • 1/3 cup of Crushed Lemon Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • Natural Salt Blend, a few grinds, to taste
  • Pepper and Juniper Blend, a few grinds, to taste

As with the Fig-Garlic flavor combo above, we found that Lemon Olive Oil and Fig Balsamic Vinegar made quite the duo! Combine all ingredients and serve. Delicious on salads layered with fresh fruits, cheeses, or nuts. Try it on Arugula Salad with Blackberries and Goat Cheese!

Blood Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

  • 1/3  cup Crushed Blood Orange Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp Organic Balsamic Vinegar or Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • Natural Salt Blend, a few grinds, to taste
  • Pepper and Juniper Blend, a few grinds, to taste

For a tangy balsamic vinaigrette with sweet citrus subtlety, we love blood orange olive oil with our Organic Balsamic Vinegar. It’s awesome on arugula salad with beets, goat cheese and walnuts. Sweeten it up by substituting Fig Balsamic Vinegar.

Rosemary Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

  • 1/3 cup of Crushed Rosemary Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp Organic Balsamic Vinegar
  • Natural Salt Blend, a few grinds, to taste
  • Pepper and Juniper Blend, a few grinds, to taste

A refreshing, tangy balsamic vinaigrette nuanced with herbaceous pine, this rosemary balsamic dressing is delicious over salads with grilled steak, pork or chicken.

Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe

  • 1/3 cup of Crushed Basil Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp Organic Balsamic Vinegar or Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • Natural Salt Blend, a few grinds, to taste
  • Pepper and Juniper Blend, a few grinds, to taste

We love this dressing with Organic Balsamic Vinegar over dinner salads with grilled chicken, and with Fig Balsamic Vinegar on fruit salads like Watermelon and Feta Salad. You can also use either vinegar as a balsamic reduction in the watermelon salad.

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Recipe

2 cups Organic Balsamic Vinegar

Place balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vinegar reduces to about 1/2 cup and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. (Note that it will continue to thicken as it cools) Cool completely, then use as desired.

This balsamic reduction, also known as balsamic glaze, is another incredibly easy recipe that’ll make all the difference in your cooking! Spoon it over tomatoes and mozzarella for a scrumptious Caprese salad, drizzle it on or under fish or chicken as a finishing touch, or even use it on  strawberries, blackberries or melon for a simple dessert that brings out th