Learn the difference between the many varieties of balsamic vinegar.
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How to Choose Balsamic Vinegar
Featured Pro: Curtis Stone Category: Cooking Time: 2:49
CURTIS STONE: Hey, I’m Curtis Stone. You ready for another GMC Trade Secret? Let’s go inside.
So you’re going to a grocery store and you need to get a balsamic vinegar, but you don’t know which one to buy. Look at this. They come in all different shapes, all different sizes, and they cost all different amounts. Sometimes they’re two bucks. Sometimes they’re $200.
Now, what you need to know about balsamic vinegar is it’s a trebbiano grape. They make that grape into a juice. They reduce it down. They take the must and they put it into aged oak barrels; now, all different types of wood barrels, just like they do for wine or even a whiskey. You end up with all these different products. Sometimes they’re really old and expensive. That’s usually the deal. And sometimes they’re not.
So let me show you the difference. There’s a couple of things you need to look out for. Read the ingredients and it should read something like this: Grape wine, grape must. That’s it. You don’t want to read this sort of stuff on your label. This one’s got wine vinegar, grape must, caramel, E150. You don’t want to read caramel, because if you read caramel, what it means is they’ve put a caramel in here to try to get away without aging it for as long as they should have. They’ve tried to get the sweetness from the caramel. So it’s not going to taste the same.
Let me show you the difference in consistency. I’m going to start right down here, down at this end, which is a 25-year-old. Wait till you see the consistency of this. See how thick that is? And that’s going to have beautiful natural sweetness to it. Another 25-year-old, a little bit cheaper, but still just as beautiful and thick. Lovely.
Now, you work your way down. This one’s a five-year-old one. Let’s see its consistency. See that? Much thinner. So that’s good for, you know, making dressings with or something like that, but you want these nice thick ones. I mean, they’re the heroes. You could almost drink it, mop it up with a bit of bread or something like that.
You go right down to the much cheaper ones and you’ll see the difference in consistency. Look at that. This one’s actually a combination of the trebbiano grapes and the red wine vinegar. So it’s not necessarily as true to what it’s been as these ones are.
One way to do it, if you’re looking for a different way – you know, if this is a little bit out of your price bracket, because they can go up to hundreds of dollars – is to get a cheaper one. Make sure you choose one that doesn’t have any sugar added. Then put it into a pan, reduce it down. And what’s going to happen when you reduce it down, it’s going to get thicker and sweeter. So look at this. It should be nice and syrupy. Lovely.
So my advice is get the big expensive ones if you can afford them and just keep them for a really special occasion. They taste delicious just on their own. So don’t mix them with anything. The cheaper stuff you can use for vinaigrettes and that sort of thing. I mean, have a look at the color, the consistency; 25 years of hard work. And it was all worth it.
I’m Curtis Stone, and that’s your GMC Trade Secret.