Balsamic vinegar is expensive, but it is used for so many things and enhances the flavour of pretty much anything you put it on, which is why so many top chefs recommend its use.
But when you crack open the bottle that has been sitting in the cupboard unused for a while, it is only natural to wonder whether it is still good, or whether you are going to be ruining the dish that you’ve oh so painstakingly prepared.
So does balsamic vinegar go bad, and what can you do about it? Read on to find out.
Does Balsamic Vinegar Go bad?
The answer to this question is yes. But not in the way you might think. Balsamic vinegar is self-sustaining and doesn’t go bad in the same way that traditional sauces and condiments do.
Because it came from grapes, balsamic vinegar aged, like fine wine. There are reports of bottles of balsamic vinegar lasting over a hundred years and being passed down in their family as heirlooms.
Balsamic vinegar only starts to go bad when you open the bottle and expose it to the air. Even then, as long as stored correctly, balsamic vinegar will last for ages, and never actually goes off, only tasting worse over time. So now, when someone asks ‘Does balsamic vinegar expire?’ You can confidently answer ‘No.’
How long does balsamic vinegar last?
According to the common consensus, the shelf life of balsamic vinegar is around three years when stored optimally. That is easily enough time to finish a bottle, so you don’t need to worry about that.
Again, the 3-year shelf life only starts once you open the bottle. As long as you are storing it correctly, you could buy a high-quality bottle of balsamic vinegar and leave it at the back of the pantry until covered in dust, but the stuff inside would still be excellent.
What is the best way to store balsamic vinegar?
To keep your balsamic vinegar stored optimally, keep it in a cool, dry place, out of extremes and changes of heat, and out of direct sunlight. The ideal temperature range is between 5 and 30 degrees C (41 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Before you close your bottle of balsamic vinegar, wipe the cap and the edge of the container clean of any overspill, and seal tightly closed to keep it airtight.
The most important thing before putting it back is to make sure the cap is sealed tight. It is for two reasons. Firstly, exposure to oxygen in the open air will cause the vinegar to degrade faster, affecting the flavour. The second reason is to keep microorganisms and other contaminants out of the vinegar.
Lastly, if you leave the cap off, even slightly, then your balsamic vinegar will slowly evaporate over time. While this is a relatively minor issue, it is still there, and considering that a good balsamic vinegar is damned expensive, why waste money?
My vinegar has gone cloudy. Is that normal?
It is. It happens over time with most wine based vinegar. It is nothing to worry about, and shouldn’t affect the flavour. Of course, if you are worried, the best way to check is to taste the vinegar.
Like we said earlier, don’t worry about it being off because that can’t happen. But if it tastes too sour or bitter to be pleasant, then perhaps consider investing in a new bottle.
Help! Something is growing in my balsamic vinegar!
Now, this is interesting. You’ve got a vinegar mother. It is a form of bacteria that is added to alcohol to turn it into vinegar.
First off, and to allay your worries, it is entirely harmless. Your vinegar is still completely safe to use, and it won’t affect the flavour at all.
In fact, it might even make it taste better.
You can remove your new friend with a strainer or coffee filter. If you want to try it, you could buy a bottle of wine, add it to that, and make your vinegar!
Either way, it is absolutely nothing to worry about. It just means that the fermentation process wasn’t entirely complete.
The Final Say
You started this article wondering to yourself ‘How long is balsamic vinegar good for?’ We hope, by reading this, your questions were answered. Feel free to spread your new knowledge and become the envy of your friends. Then, when they ask you where you learnt all this, point them our way!