Food & Drink Magazine

Balsamic Vinegar Balls: Fun with Molecular Gastronomy

By Skfsullivan @spectacularlyd

BALSAMIC VINEGAR BALLS: FUN WITH MOLECULAR GASTRONOMYNothing says meth lab quite like a little foray into at-home molecular gastronomy.  Digital scales weighing out grams of white powder, funnels, squeeze bottles and spoons for thermometer-controlled cooking and cooling. But no need to cover up the windows with old sheets.  The delight provided by glistening jet black orbs of vinegar is 100% legal – the ultimate expression of elegance whenever a bounce of zingy vinegar is called for.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR BALLS: FUN WITH MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY
While this recipe for balsamic vinegar balls isn’t as simple as our earlier foray into domestic molecular gastronomic cooking — tap water sous vide — transforming balsamic vinegar into caviar isn’t difficult.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR BALLS: FUN WITH MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY
The idea came from that recent meet-up with Tyler Florence to get a look at his new cookbook coming out Dec. 4 — pre-order your copy of Tyler Florence Fresh now.  The scales came in handy translating his metric measurements into good ol’ American. Two grams of agar agar  (the seaweed-based gelling agent used in biology classes to grow mold in petri dishes) translates into one tablespoon. Three-quarters cup of vinegar is the equivalent of @150 grams.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR BALLS: FUN WITH MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY
A clean, dry plastic 1 ltr. plastic soda bottle is used to portion out drops of vinegar into cold olive oil.  The bottle can be sealed while cooling down in the freezer without risk of spills. A squeeze bottle, like the ketchup bottle from a picnic  used here controls the drops into the oil. Eyedroppers — or a syringe! — work well too. A syringe would complete the whole illicit drug feeling if you care to — or a syringe! — work well too.

One last thing before we plunge in: red wine vinegar also does the trick, making pink opalescent balls that look surprising like salmon roe.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR BALLS: FUN WITH MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY
BALSAMIC VINEGAR BALLS RECIPE

An instant-read thermometer makes everything easy.

1 t.  agar agar powder
3/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 liter olive oil

Fill a clean plastic 1 liter soda bottle with olive oil. Place in the freezer for 30-45 minutes until the oil is 38°F.

In a small sauce pan whisk the agar agar into the vinegar. Bring to a simmer, whisking to avoid clumps. When the mixture boils remove from the heat.  When the vinegar mixtures cools to 125° or so transfer to a squeeze bottle or use an eye dropper.

Carefully squeeze little drops of the warm vinegar into the cold olive oil. Each drop with ball up into a perfect sphere as it drops to the bottom.  The controlled drop through the cold oil chills the ball all the way through so that it solidifies into shape.

The balls accumulate at the bottom of the bottle. When you’ve used up the vinegar, pour out most of the oil.  Tip the vinegar balls into a bowl or food storage container covered with  just enough oil to keep them barely covered. The excess oil can be used for cooking, making popped cherry tomatoes or oil-poaching fish.

Scatter the balls on salad or cooked fish or grilled vegetables.

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