Updated: May 14, 2022
Balsamic 'caviar' pearls are a show-stopping way to make use of balsamic vinegar. Used as a garnish for crostini, salads, and other fancy appetizers, you and your guests are going to love this new way to make use of balsamic vinegar using spherification!
To make balsamic ‘caviar’ pearls is actually a lot easier to make than you think! By using spherification, a technique in molecular gastronomy, we are going to be turning liquid balsamic vinegar into tiny pearls.
With just a couple ingredients and an easy technique, you can easily turn almost any liquid into little spheres.
For this we will need:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) - good quality, chilled! We’ll be using this to set the spheres so it will need to be ice cold. We also want good quality olive oil as since they will be coated in it, you’ll want a delicious tasting olive oil to go with it.
Balsamic vinegar - aged, and good quality. Since they will be tiny spheres, you’ll want them packed with flavour.
Agar-agar powder - a natural plant-based gelatine made from seaweed. A little goes a long way, and is great at setting liquids. Also, it’s naturally vegan!
Honey - used to slightly sweeten the mixture. We want this to offset the tartness of the vinegar. For a vegetarian option, you can use maple or granulated sugar instead.
Sea salt - to balance and enhance all the flavours.
It’s rather simple actually. You’ll need to chill the oil in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Make sure to use a vessel that is tall so the pearls have enough to cool down and set in their shape before they reach the bottom.
To make the balsamic mixture, simply heat up the balsamic vinegar, honey (or choice of sweetener), and salt to a simmer. Whisk in the agar-agar until combined, let simmer for 5 minutes then let cool slightly. You can use a squeeze bottle with a small spout/hole, or a dropper - a vessel that is capable of making small drops.
When ready, bring out your chilled oil vessel and carefully drop-by-drop pour into the oil. You will see as each drop falls to the bottom, the little pearls have formed. Once you have a small layer of pearls at the bottom, remove and transfer to another container. Continue to do this until you’ve used up your balsamic mixture.
If you notice that the pearls are not holding their shape well, this means that your oil is not cold enough, so you’ll need to chill the oil for another 30 minutes in the freezer before resuming.
Easy right? Now, how to serve these little gems?
Well you can use these in pretty much any way you would use balsamic vinegar - in salads, over crostini with various toppings, witch cheese and tomatoes, imagine all the possibilities!
And just think what your guests will say when you tell them that you made them! It’ll really impress them! And just think, it wasn’t even hard to make!