Nearly a millennium ago, artisans in the Emilia-Romagna region of what is now modern day Italy perfected their recipe for an ingredient that's now an essential in every kitchen: balsamic vinegar. Once only known to the few who lived in the area, balsamic vinegar quickly became a staple in pantries across the globe when the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III of was given a silver bottle of the stuff in 1046 by the townspeople of the North Italian region. 

Ever since that monumental occasion in the early 11th century, home cooks and master chefs alike have incorporated this Italian staple into their cooking. However, whether the vinegar was crafted in the Middle ages or the 21st century, one does wonder, does balsamic vinegar go bad? Or is it safe to use in your cooking until the bottle's empty? To better understand this, let's first dive into the process of how this condiment is made.

What Is Balsamic Vinegar?

As mentioned earlier, balsamic vinegar originated in a northern Italian region called Emilia-Romagna. To this day, in order for a bottle to be a certified as a traditional balsamic vinegar, it must be produced in this historic area. However, the once isolated hometown pride has now reached the plates of people across the world.

#SpoonTip: To make sure you're buying the real thing, look for bottles labeled "Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena" or of Reggio Emelia (or if it's really authentic, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena). 

Balsamic vinegar begins from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, also known as the grape must. This reduction process results in a thick syrup called mosto cotto. From here, the substance is aged in various wooden barrels for a minimum of 12 years and can go up to 25 years or more.

This entire process produces a vinegar that is rich and smooth. It has sweet and sour notes of the grapes intertwined with the subdued, dark hints of the wooden casks. Thanks to the vinegar's acidic nature, it's self-preserving and is often too extreme of an environment for bacteria to grow in.

Does Balsamic Vinegar Go Bad?

To put it simply, balsamic vinegar doesn't go bad. While the condiment is at the peak of it's life within the first three years  (as long as the cap is securely tightened), the bottle can be passed down from generation to generation and still remain safe to consume. 

A change in color, the formation of sediment, or cloudy developments are only aesthetic differences and don't actually alter the taste of the vinegar. However, if you're unsure how long the balsamic vinegar has sat in your pantry, always taste it before using it in your dish to double check whether it still has the dark, intense flavor that makes it so unique.

Whether you're taking your pasta game to the next level, or experimenting with fruit and vinegar pairings, there's no reason to panic because chances are good that the history-filled bottle sitting in the corner of your pantry will have your back no matter the occasion.