Vinegar Pearls

Vinegar Pearls are part of the molecular cooking movement!  They look fussy but they really aren’t.

They are not difficult to make but you have to be precise.

The biggest challenge is probably to find the Agar agar you are going to need to make them gel.  Bulk Barn sometimes carries it but they were out when I was looking.  I found it at Fiddle Head’s a Health food store in Kitchener.

Agar agar is used as a gelatin substitute in vegan cooking so look for shops that cater to vegetarian/vegan lifestyles.  If all else fails… Amazon will have some to you door in a day or 2!

Label of a jar of agar agar

I came late to the Vinegar Pearls party…. I was lucky to be having lunch at a Michelin star restaurant in Gratallops, Priorat in Spain and my grilled scallop appetizer came adorned with gorgeous golden vinegar pearls!  I think they were white wine  vinegar.

I used balsamic vinegar for a condiment more than others but I am sure you could make them with any vinegar.  I am eyeing up a bottle of sherry vinegar as I write this… I think that will be amazing!

Back to the instructions…. the first time I made them they worked like a charm.  The second time they didn’t turn out.  I am glad the first try worked or I may have been discouraged.  I think my oil was not cold enough.

The concept is you reduced the vinegar slightly by bringing to a boil and the agar agar acts like gelatin to make the drops gel and hold their shape.  But the oil has to be cold so the droplets have time to cool down and keep their droplet form.  Also you want to use the tallest glass you can so the drops have lots of time travelling through the cold oil before they reach the bottom. I use a tall beer glass that is about 8″ tall.

Tall glass of cold oil and balsamic vinegar pearls

On my second failed attempt they started out as droplets but when the reached the bottom of the glass they just melded together into a leathery blob.

Chef’s Tips

  1.  You can use any kind of oil. I have had success with both olive oil and canola oil.
  2. Bring the vinegar to a boil with the agar agar stirring almost constantly. It will start to thicken noticeably. Remove it from the heat and give it lots of time to cool.   Check it after 5 minutes.
  3. I use a small plastic bottle that once held balsamic glaze. You want something you can squeeze with a very small opening to push the drops out. You could use an eye dropper or one of the medical syringes designed to measure medicine -(not the ones that would be a needle in your arm). You could even try a mustard or ketchup squeeze bottle -though they will be very big for the 1/3 cup or so of liquid you will have.
  4. I squeeze out the drops holding my bottle about 6″ above the glass. It gives the drops even more time to cool down,
  5. Use the tallest vessel you can  with about 2 cups of cold oil so the drops have lots of time to travel through the cold oil.  Do not skimp on the freezer time to cool the oil.  It needs at least 30 minutes.
  6.  I strain the oil into a measuring cup.  You catch the vinegar pearls in the strainer and rinse them under cold water.  They are actually quite sturdy at this point.  Then I transfer them to a sealed container until I am ready to use them.  They will keep in the fridge, sealed for a week-probably longer but I am not sure how to gage that!
  7. I funnel the oil into a small sealed container and keep it in the fridge.  You can use it for more pearls but I try to use it up in other cooking endeavours.
  8. Enjoy this elegant garnish to take your presentation up a notch!

Balsamic vinegar pearls in a dish

I used them to garnish this Zucchini Custard but I think they would be good on bruschetta, maybe as garnish in a cold soup, added garnish on a salad.

Appetizer with parmesan crisps as garnish

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Vinegar Pearls
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Course Condiments
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
cup
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp agar agar
  • 2 cups oil olive or canola work well.
Course Condiments
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
cup
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp agar agar
  • 2 cups oil olive or canola work well.
Vinegar Pearls
Votes: 0
Rating: 0
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Chill the oil in a tall narrow glass in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Bring vinegar and agar agar to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer until sauce starts to thicken. This might take 5 minutes depending on your pot size and heat.
  3. Remove vinegar from the heat and allow to cool at least 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer vinegar to a squeezable bottle or syringe.
  5. Remove the oil from the freezer and gently squeeze out droplets from several inches above the glass.
  6. Watch as the droplets move down through the oil to the bottom. They should retain their droplet shape when they reach the bottom.
  7. When you have used all the vinegar, use a sieve and strain the oil out into a measuring cup. Rinse the pears that have remained in the sieve under cold water. Allow them to drain and then transfer to a sealed container. You can use immediately or refrigerate. You can re-use the oil if you keep it refrigerated.
  8. Use your pearls as garnish as desired.
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