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June 17, 2016

Balsamic Glaze vs Balsamic Vinegar

Post by Cinde Little

Balsamic Glaze vs Balsamic Vinegar, does your pantry include both? I think it should.

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A bottle of Balsamic Glaze vs Balsamic Vinegar with fresh tomatoes, basil, bocconcini and olive oil.
Balsamic Glaze vs Balsamic Vinegar -photo credit Jim Little

Balsamic in no longer considered a specialty item. Both balsamic vinegar and glaze are readily available to me. But the fact is you may not actually be using balsamic vinegar at all.

What is Balsamic Vinegar?

Traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy is labelled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale with the D.O.P. stamp (“Denominazione di Origine Protetta”). Like real champagne there is a strict certification process that must be followed to carry this stamp.

The real balsamic vinegar is made of whole pressed grapes and aged in wooden barrels for 12 – 25 years. It gets thicker and more concentrated as it ages so is classed by age. The grading is affinato (fine), aged 12 years, vecchio (old), aged 15-20 years; or extra vecchio (extra old), aged 20-25 years. Italians are serious about their balsamic vinegar.

So, does quality matter? Well, I think the answer is usually yes. Of course there is a range of prices so just decide how much you want to pay and enjoy what you purchase.

Affordable Balsamic Vinegar and Labels

A more affordable choice is balsamic vinegar of Modena with the I.G.P. stamp (Protected Geographical Indication). That is what you see on the bottles in the picture here that I bought at an Italian specialty store.

Once you become a label-reader you are not surprised to find ingredients in any seemingly straight forward product, even vinegar. The two bottles in this photo have an ingredient list but they are both gluten free. 

I recommend buying anything from Italy and choosing plain balsamic vinegar. When gluten free products are flavoured it is common to see wheat become one of the ingredients. 

If you want to treat yourself here are three high qualify brands of balsamic vinegar:

Artificial Balsamic Vinegar

Grocery store balsamic vinegar is most likely artificial. I avoid the ones labeled imitation or artificial. These commercial grade vinegars are often wine vinegar with added sugar and artificial ingredients.

How To Use Balsamic Vinegar

Added to extra virgin olive oil for dipping pieces of fresh gluten free bread

A boule of Gluten Free Crusty Bread right from the oven.
Gluten Free Crusty Bread -photo credit Jim Little

In a simple homemade salad dressing of oil and vinegar

Garden greens that have just been tossed with a homemade salad dressing and sprinkled with colourful edible flower petals, wow!
Homemade Salad Dressing or Basic Vinaigrette -photo credit Jim Little

As a marinade such as balsamic marinated grilled vegetables

Slices of grilled Achiote Chicken from Yucatan.
Grilled Achiote Chicken -photo credit Jim Little

What Is Balsamic Glaze?

Balsamic glaze is an Italian condiment sometimes labelled glassa or crema. Homemade balsamic glaze is easy enough to make. Bring 1 cup of balsamic vinegar to a boil then simmer it until it is reduced to ¼ cup. 

Commercial brands are most often gluten free but do have an ingredient list. The label on my bottle says gomma di xantano (xanthan gum in English). 

How To Use Balsamic Glaze

Here are my favourite ways to use balsamic glaze:

Drizzled over Bocconcini Cherry Tomato Skewers and any variation on toothpicks or even DIY style

A beautiful tray of bocconcini cherry tomato skewers
Bocconcini Cherry Tomato Skewers -photo credit Jim Little

To garnish a plate when serving vegetable stacks

Vegetable Stacks with a balsamic glaze swirl.
Vegetable Stacks -photo credit Jim Little
  • Squeezed over salad ingredients like tomato and avocado, in a plastic container for lunch
  • Dotted over pasta or any dish that could use a little pick-me-up, the same way you would use soy sauce on Asian food

Balsamic Glaze vs Balsamic Vinegar

It isn’t really balsamic glaze vs balsamic vinegar, anyone who cooks often can enjoy both. I suggest you pay a little more for something from Italy. Enjoy the unique taste of balsamic on some fresh tomatoes this summer and learn to use it the rest of the year too. I’d love to hear how you use it in the comments below.

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