The Easy Trick For Making Cheap Balsamic Vinegar Taste Expensive

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There's balsamic vinegar and then there's balsamic vinegar. The real deal, according to Serious Eats, is made in tiny quantities and only in the Italian regions of Reggio Emilia and Modena. It starts out as grapes — usually Trebbiano or Lambrusco — and the process of making it is a long one. It's cooked, fermented, and then aged for at least 12 years in wooden barrels. And as you might expect, it's expensive: Williams Sonoma offers a 25-year-old balsamic vinegar for roughly $200 and Amazon has a bargain offering at $124.

Of course, we know the shelves of grocery stores hold bottles that don't cost anywhere near that much money, but they're also not exactly the same thing. Some bottles labeled as balsamic vinegar may actually just be sweetened wine, white, or even cider vinegar. While aged real-deal balsamic vinegars are precious, they're also delicious. Drizzling just a bit on fresh fruit or a special occasion caprese salad can be a worthwhile splurge. But what if you could get the same effect for a whole lot less money?

The best balsamic vinegar trick

Savvy cooks know that simply simmering and reducing inexpensive balsamic vinegar can give you a delicious, flavorful sauce. This hack, coming by way of America's Test Kitchen, kicks it up a notch. Instead of just reducing plain balsamic vinegar, if you add a little sugar and a little port, you're boosting the wow factor of your syrupy, rich reduction. Port, of course, is fortified wine made in certain parts of Portugal, and it's already sweet and complex. When you add that to the zing of balsamic vinegar, along with a little sugar, you're headed for what America's Test Kitchen calls a "velvety reduction" that's more satisfying than the kind you'd find at your local grocer.

Food 52 tried out the hack, as well as a number of renditions, including a just sugar option and a just port option, but said that when using both sugar and port, they got the "most delicious and well-balanced" result.

The result of making your own port-balsamic reduction is an unctuous, rich syrup that will sweeten and enhance the flavors of everything from aged hard cheeses to fresh strawberries. If you were using $200-per-bottle balsamic vinegar, you might be stingy with your drizzle, but with this inexpensive trick, you can make every bite of bruschetta special.