Vinegar makes the top four must have pantry items to invest in. Technically, any food that can produce alcoholic fermentation can be used to make vinegar, however, the mighty grape and apples make the best vinegars. Just as it is with oil, there are many vinegars to choose from. To start I recommend an aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy. This is not made from wine, rather the grapes are pressed into a thick syrup which is later aged in a variety of different wooden casks. Like wine, the flavors develop with age taking on characteristics of the woods. The results can be an unbelievably thick syrup that balances the sharpness a vinegar with the developed sweetness of the natural sugars and the nuances of the woods.
One warning when buying balsamic vinegar. If the label says ‘balsamic condimento’ just know that is not the same as traditional balsamic vinegar. Look for the labels that say Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.
By investment I mean spend what you can on the oldest one you can afford. It’s completely worth it since at any given time you will literally only need a few drops of this versatile condiment. It has a very long shelf-life too if stored correctly. Try a few drops on perfectly ripe sliced tomatoes with a sprinkle of fleur de sel (sound familiar - olive oil used in the very same way). Or often seen served with strawberries for dessert. Once you’ve had a truly delicious aged balsamic, you’ll start thinking of ways to use it. You can also get a younger aged balsamic to combine with its’ best friend, oil.