Given that balsamic vinegar is something one would generally only use in tiny quantities at a time, it is only natural to be curious as to how long it can keep. As it is the case that a high quality bottle of the stuff can set you back a small fortune, it is also best to know exactly how to store it to prevent that potentially heartbreaking moment where you find yourself pouring it all down the sink.
Situations such as these are entirely avoidable, especially considering that balsamic vinegar is quite forgiving when it comes to storage and can last for quite some time in the right conditions. This is due to the fact that, as a result of the way it is produced, it is a hostile environment for bacteria to thrive in. That being said, there are always a few pitfalls to avoid when storing any product. To help you out, we decided to put together this quick and easy guide on how to store it, and how long it can last if the right measures are taken.
The Best Way to Store Balsamic Vinegar
Thankfully, correctly storing balsamic vinegar is one of the easiest tasks on the planet. In the case that you are storing an unopened bottle, all that it needs is a cool dark environment where it can avoid such harmful elements as heat and sunlight. The elements, when left in contact with a bottle of balsamic for too long, won’t exactly cause your vinegar to expire, but it could cause the flavour profile to change quite a bit. In itself, this isn’t a terrible thing, but if you happen to have really splashed out on an authentic, top quality example, you would be forgiven for weeping if this came to pass!
There is also no major trick to correctly storing an opened bottle of balsamic either, we are sure you will be pleased to hear. The only thing you need to keep an eye out for is that the seal of the bottle is nice and tight as you replace it back into the same cool, dark space from whence it came! This ensures no damage is dealt by the four key elements that you need to watch for when storing such things; heat, light, moisture, and air. Now that we’ve gone through all that, let’s see exactly how long a bottle of balsamic will last in both its unopened and opened but stored correctly states.
How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last?
This question is unfortunately not as simple to answer as how to store it. This is due to the fact that there is a large gulf between traditionally produced balsamic vinegar and the mass produced variety. With the latter category, the balsamic vinegar can be made within a matter of months rather than years as they achieve the balsamic taste by adding in extra elements to boost the flavour. This is not to suggest that such a product doesn’t have its merits, but more so to illustrate that they are in essence very different things.
With the traditional variety, it is common practice to keep bottles of it to pass to younger generations as it ages in much the same way as wine, with some elements of the flavour actually improving over time. Conversely, the mass produced version will not improve over time and will instead begin to actually lose its flavour and become somewhat dull. This is why these bottles generally come with an expiry date which is set to a few years after the bottling date. As a rule, an unopened bottle of mass produced balsamic vinegar can last up to three years after its suggested expiry date. On the other hand, the traditional variety can sit on a pantry shelf improving and developing its flavour for over 20 years. In fact, some families in Northern Italy hand down bottles through the generations!
Signs That Your Balsamic Vinegar May Have Gone Off
Here comes some very comforting news… If your balsamic has been stored correctly and kept free from any contaminants, it may never truly “go off”. In the worst case scenario, with correct storage, the worst that you should experience is that the balsamic simply will not taste as good as you remembered. It will generally be entirely safe to consume, if not a little disappointing. However, in a rare case, you may begin to notice that the liquid simply doesn’t look right and may smell a little funky. This can only really happen if it has been badly stored and some contaminant has gotten in and destroyed the liquid. In these cases, it is best to err on the side of caution and to just get rid of it and replace it with a new one.
Should Balsamic Vinegar be Refrigerated?
There is absolutely no need to store balsamic in your fridge. This is due to the fact that the liquid is naturally an inhospitable climate for bacteria to thrive in. So long as the bottle is recapped correctly and stored in a cool, dark place, this is more than enough to ensure its longevity.
Balsamic Vinegar Storage, Sell-by Dates, and Other Related Questions
How is balsamic vinegar made?
Balsamic vinegar begins its life as a reduction of Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, also known as a grape must. From here, this is then aged in various different casks where it is infused with older batches of the vinegar. Depending on the quality of the vinegar, this process can take as long as 25 years to complete. It is an amazing and ingenious process that creates a rich and woody flavour which is known the world over. Rather remarkably, the process by which balsamic vinegar is made seems to have changed very little in the thousand or so years since its conception.
How long does balsamic vinegar last after packaging?
This depends on which variety of balsamic vinegar you have chosen. The relatively inexpensive store bought kind can last up to 3 years beyond its expiry date if stored correctly. On the other hand, traditional varieties have been known to survive and actually improve in quality for in excess of 20 years after the bottling date.
How long does balsamic salad dressing last?
If your salad dressing is homemade, it is best to make it in small quantities and use it as you go along as it generally will begin to diminish in quality after only a few days. In the case of the mass produced variety, because they have added preservatives, a bottle can last in the fridge for up to a year if not contaminated by air, heat, moisture, or excess light.
How long does balsamic glaze last?
If the glaze that you have is a one ingredient (balsamic vinegar) variety, there is no reason why it won’t last the same amount of time as a regular balsamic vinegar would. However, as some manufacturers use more than this one ingredient, the answer becomes more complex. Most state that their glaze will last for up to 6 months after opening, if the glaze has been stored in a proper manner and in the fridge.