If you invest in good balsamic, then take care to store it properly, you can expect to use this magical ingredient for years to come.

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Whether drizzled over vanilla ice cream, splashed in soups, or used as a dip for bread, balsamic vinegar turns everyday dishes into delicious feasts. Simply put, balsamic vinegar is magic. Invest in a quality bottle, store it well, and it'll be your secret ingredient. Here's what you need to know to protect that investment and make your balsamic vinegar last

bottle of balsamic vinegar with proscuitto, caper berries, and bread
Credit: Courtesy of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Consortium

How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last?

While it would be hard to prove balsamic vinegar can last forever, a good bottle will last quite some time assuming it's made and stored properly. The acidity of vinegar actually makes it self-preserving, which is why many bottles of balsamic vinegar get better with age. According to Michael Harlan Turkell, author of Acid Trip: Travels in the World of Vinegar ($15, 220-20&linkId=72b248f993f1c666c5fc5edd3f1b61aa&language=en_US" title="amazon.com" context="body" sid=""/]), in the 19th-century, mothers in Italy's Emilia Romagna region started to make balsamic when a daughter was born. That way, by the time the daughter got married, the balsamic was well-aged.

That said, you will want to consume most commercially available balsamic vinegars within three to five years. They're still safe to consume after five years (self-preserving, remember), but the quality won't be the same. How can you know if you're buying a good bottle that will last? When it comes to balsamic, the old saying is true: You get what you pay for. Expect to pay at least $15 per bottle. Look for IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta), which is aged at least 60 days, or for Traditional DOP (Tradizionale Denominazione di Origine Protetta), which is aged at least 12 years and consequently costs more.

How to Store Balsamic Vinegar

If you've been storing balsamic vinegar in the cupboard above your stove or oven (or on the counter beside the stove), it's time to move it. For the best tasting balsamic vinegar that lasts for the longest period of time, you want to store it in a cool, dark place. However, if you're mainly using it to make salads, then you can go ahead and store it in the refrigerator.

How to Use Balsamic Vinegar

For as delicious as balsamic vinegar is drizzled over grilled or roasted meats or on a cheese plate or salad, there are so many other ways to use it, too. In fact, with all the dishes and drinks you can add balsamic vinegar to, it seems impossible anyone would be able to hold on to a bottle for a year, let alone three to five years. Try these balsamic mushrooms as an easy side dish, or make this balsamic chicken and orange for a quick, delicious weeknight meal. Whatever you do, don't forget these balsamic poached pears—one taste and they'll become a dessert staple.

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