Simple Balsamic Vinegar Pearls Recipe and How to Guide

One of the easiest ways to try out molecular gastronomy is by creating "pearls". Most pearls are small jelly balls, or small spheres, that can be used to garnish dishes or as an amuse-bouche.

Balsamic pearls 2

Here we create sweet-sour balsamic vinegar pearls that are a great way to add a hit of flavor to many different dishes. The process of making them is even pretty easy, with just a touch of molecular gastronomy.

It's a fantastic way to add some flair to your dishes.

How Do You Make Balsamic Pearls

We first combine the vinegar with agar agar and bring it to a boil. Then we drizzle the balsamic mixture into very cold olive oil that chills the droplets into spheres before they reach the bottom of the glass. This forms agar pearls

Once you rinse off the balsamic vinegar pearls they are ready to use or you can store them in the refrigerator for later use. There are many uses for these agar balsamic balls, and they can be used in many dishes you would drizzle balsamic vinegar on.

We've also included a video below showing the technique in action.

And if you are just getting started with modernist cooking, you can't go wrong with experimenting with agar...many people consider it an essential element of molecular gastronomy.

What is the Difference Between Pearls and Caviar?

To be clear, these pearls are not the same thing as modernist balsamic caviar. They may look the same, and some people call it a cold oil spherification method, but pearls are solid jelly balls, while caviar has a liquid center and they are made through very different processes.

You can use spherification to make caviar. It usually uses a combination of calcium chloride or calcium lactate with sodium alginate or iota carrageenan.

Pearls simply use agar agar to fully gel the vinegar, but you could also use gelatin or other gelling agents, maybe even cellulose gum or guar gum.

What Type of Vinegar is Best

You can use any vinegar you want, though the higher the quality the better tasting the final product will be. A traditional balsamic vinegar of modena is amazing, but anything with a decent flavor is great.

You can also make white balsamic pearls with a white balsamic vinegar.

What to Serve Balsamic Pearls On

These can be used on any dish that would normally have a balsamic glaze, such as sous vide pork tenderlon.

With the addition of a little sugar, you can use these tiny pearls as a toppic for ice cream, sundays, or other tasty desserts. The black balsamic pearls are especially vivid when served on vanilla ice cream or other light colored dishes.

These can make a standard caprese salad much more upscale, are an amazing topping for burrata cheese, and can even elevate some fresh fruit to some much more fancy.

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls Tools Needed

If you like this recipe you can get more than 80 other recipes from my book Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Getting Started. The book covers many of the popular modernist techniques such as gelling, spherification, and foams. It also explores modernist ingredients like agar, sodium alginate, tapioca maltodextrin, and xanthan gum. It is all presented in an easy to understand format and I think it's the best way to learn about modernist cooking.

Also, if you are just getting started experimenting with molecular gastronomy and modernist cuisine then I highly recommend one of these molecular gastronomy kits. They have everything you need to do many different dishes.

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Balsamic Vinegar Pearls Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 Minutes
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes
  • Published: February 20, 2012
  • By Jason Logsdon
  • Tools Needed: Agar agar

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls Ingredients

  • For the Balsamic Vinegar Pearls

  • Because they use modernist ingredients, these amounts for this component are given in metric by weight. Learn more about how to measure modernist ingredients in this article.

  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 grams agar agar
  • Olive oil

Balsamic Vinegar Pearls Instructions

Before starting, fill a tall glass with olive oil and place it into the freezer for at least 30 minutes. The oil needs to be very cold so the balsamic vinegar pearls will cool before they reach the bottom. Once the oil is cold you may continue making the balsamic vinegar pearls.

Add the balsamic vinegar to a pot along with the agar agar and bring to a boil while stirring. Once it begins to boil remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly.

Drip the hot liquid using a dropper or syringe into the cold olive oil. It's best to try to leave drops of equal size but you can always sort them into different sizes of balsamic vinegar pearls once they are done. Once all the pearls are made you can remove them from the olive oil and rinse them in water.

Now you can make balsamic vinegar pearls of your own!

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Jason logsdon headshot This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the website.
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