Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

strawberries in balsamic vinegar

We are starting to get good fresh strawberries now. They are being shipped from places like Spain and Italy, which is not quite the same as the freshly picked ones that will be available from local sources in a few weeks. Still, they are much better than the real long-distance travelers from places like Israel and California with woody insides that are sold out of season.

When I was growing up, our favorite way to eat strawberries was in milk. This even has a name in Japanese, ichigo miruku. It's such a popular combination that there is even candy with that ichigo miruku flavor. Basically, you pour some cold milk over a bowl of strawberries, and crush the strawberries into the milk. It is a methodical and quite satisfying process. Sugar is sprinkled on often, though my mother was rather strict about allowing the kids to have extra sugar, so it was not a regular feature in our house.

A variation on ichigo miruku was served at one of my friend's houses: strawberries with condensed milk. This was so soul-shakingly sweet, that I craved it. Never would my mother have allowed this - I don't think she ever even allowed condensed milk into the house. The syrupy-ness of the condensed milk was a perfect foil to me to the tart strawberries. The resulting sugar-high afterglow was quite interesting too.

Anyway, now I am an adult more or less, and my favorite way to have strawberries that are not quite the peak of freshness and sweetness (that kind of rare strawberry should simply be eaten plain) is to macerate them in some good balsamic vinegar with a bit of sugar. This is an Italian method I believe, though I think I first read about it in one of the Frugal Gourmet cookbooks years ago. It also appears in Nigella Lawson's How to Eat book. It doesn't even deserve a recipe, because it's simplicity itself, but a recipe of sorts follows anyway. The balsamic vinegar seems to bring out the strawberry-ness, and the liquid that you are left with after the strawberries are gone has a most wonderful vinegar-strawberry-sweet flavor that I can just drink as-is. It also makes an interesting drink - dilute with the same amount of sparkling water, add ice and a lemon slice.

Strawberries in balsamic vinegar

  • 1 large pack of strawberries
  • 3-4 Tbs good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 3-4 Tbs sugar

The main task you have for making this is to get the best strawberries you can find. Wash the strawberries with their hulls on, then take out the hulls (otherwise, the water seeps into the middle part and can make them soggy). Cut any large strawberries into halves.

The balsamic vinegar should be the most expensive kind you can afford, with that wonderful sweet-mellow flavor.

For each pack of strawberries, you want about 3 to 4 tablespoons each of balsamic vinegar and sugar. If you are wary about the vinegar, add less; if the strawberries are very tart (sort of a rarity these days) add more sugar. Toss the strawberries around gently in this mix in a non-metallic bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, preferably overnight.

Bring the strawberries out a bit beforehand to take the chill off them. To serve, just place in a glass bowl or even a brandy snifter, spoon some of the liquor over it, and garnish with a sprig of mint if you like.

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Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

Do you have any suggestions for Balsalmic Vinegar brands? There aren't many varieties here in Japan, but we can get a few...

Forrest O. | 26 April, 2004 - 13:04

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

\(^0^)/ Looks yummy.

My mother has done something similar in the past, but I doubt she uses balsalmic vinegar. Haha, I think she has no idea what balsamic vinegar is. Just lots of sugar.

I cheat. I used to place the strawberries with some sugar (sometimes I don't) and cook them in the microwave. Then I pour the mixture over vanilla ice cream. (^_^)>

Zelnox | 26 April, 2004 - 17:25

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

Did you know a grinding of black pepper achieves the same kind of flavour enhancement as balsamic? It's even better when you use both! I heard about this in Jill Dupleix's (food editor of the London Times) latest book 'Very Simple Food'. I tried it recently and it actually works! Incredible!
Sadly, we are entering Winter here so strawberry season is over. :-(

Niki | 26 April, 2004 - 18:10

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

Mmmmm. Strawberries with milk. I've never had that -- I did however grow up eating banana's in milk, which most people have never heard of...
The first time I heard of Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar I turned my nose up thinking it would just be wrong. Oh my goodness was I wrong! I also agree with Niki's hint about the black pepper...yum.

Jennifer | 26 April, 2004 - 18:32

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

my japanese friend in college would make ichigo miruku for me all the time! she always crushed the strawberries for me, i don't know why. i'm going to make it this season for sure.

yi | 27 April, 2004 - 00:46

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

My gosh, those berries look incredible! I've never had strawberries with balsamic vinegar, it just sounded so odd, but maybe I'll try it now.

ladygoat | 27 April, 2004 - 06:19

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

Lovely strawberries. So luscious. Strawberries are showing up here in Korea as well.

I usually just take strawberries as is or with ice-cream. :o)

FatMan Seoul | 27 April, 2004 - 08:56

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

I have also heard of strawberries an balsamic, but I've never tried it for fear my balsamic vinegar wasn't good enough - your photo sure makes it look great though. My favourite way to eat strawberries is with sugared unflavoured yogurt.

Jen | 27 April, 2004 - 08:57

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

i'm with FatManSeoul. icecream is the way to go!
strawberries are also very good in smoothies (a bit like the strawberries in milk you mentioned, i suppose) - milk, a ripe banana, strawberries, maybe some yoghurt and/or honey, whizz it all up and you have the best summer brekky drink.

kitschenette | 27 April, 2004 - 16:03

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

I had to try this because I just adore sour food. I don't even like strawberries very much, but this just rocked! I am so glad you posted it.

elgoose | 27 April, 2004 - 20:50

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

Thanks for the reminder of this delicious recipe. Here in San Francisco, we have had about three blissful weeks of Chandler Stawberry season so far. I am hoping for a long and fruitful season!

jen | 29 April, 2004 - 01:41

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

Forrest, I don't know if any specific brands in Japan, but here is a site that explains the differences between various balsamic vinegar varieties:


From my experience, the more expensive the balsamic vinegar, the better it is... unfortunately. If you can taste it in advance, it should be mildly vingary, a bit sweet, and very mellow. And quite dark, due to the aging.

maki | 30 April, 2004 - 03:18

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

I made this last night and it was a huge hit. My boyfriend was unsure at first about the balsamic vinegar part and then he tried it and loved it.

Donna | 30 April, 2004 - 18:41

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

have you guys tried using this balsamic vinegar strawberries on thick bread toast with a bit of sugar, then serve up with fresh cream or ice cream. YUM YUM YUM can't beat it, perfect Valentine's Day brekky.

rachel | 1 May, 2004 - 06:54

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

if i am not wrong, balsamic vinegar is like good red wine, the more you age the more intense favour you have, and the more you have to pay for it.

rachel | 1 May, 2004 - 07:02

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

I made myself a batch with cheap balsamic vinegar and it was heavenly. I can only imagine what it would taste like with good balsamic vinegar... mmm....

Thanks again for sharing the "recipe." :)

yoko | 3 May, 2004 - 16:51

Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

I'd never heard of this until a few weeks ago, when my neighbor kindly brought me some extras he had leftover from a dinner party. He used an epicurious recipe, "Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Mascarpone". It was absolutely heavenly, and he, too, used ordinary supermarket vinegar.

s'kat | 4 May, 2004 - 20:58

Stumbled across this recipe

Stumbled across this recipe last night and threw it together for a luncheon this afternoon — it has an intensely fresh strawberry flavor and a delicate balsamic flavor. I had a batch of strawberry jam that didn’t set properly and I thickened it a bit with some of that as well.
Unfortunately, my vinegar was Trader Joe’s, my berries were just barely ripe and I didn’t have time to marinate them, but the dish was still amazingly delicious.
The hostess wanted to serve them over fresh spinach leaves which made a really lovely little salad - perfect combination. I’ll do it correctly next time and also try the previous suggestion to crush them a bit.
Also wondering how they’d be over ice cream and drizzled with chocolate - or over a heavy chocolate cake topped with creme fraiche and this recipe — overkill?….

Corajudd | 5 July, 2008 - 03:38

Re: Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

I froze them solid for about 11 hours, then stuck the strawberries in the fridge for about 4 hours. They were absolutely delicious!

I later mixed the strawberry-balsamic vinegar syrup with water, ice, and some 7-Up. It tasted like a hibiscus drink-very good!

anon. | 10 June, 2010 - 04:38

Re: Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

I make this with rice vinegar and I'd say, the flavor is even better, lighter.

Rina | 19 June, 2010 - 18:30

Re: Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

I like to grind a little pepper over the strawberries and toss lightly just before spooning into a dish of very vanilla ice cream.

Jackie | 27 June, 2010 - 23:39

Re: Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

Just trying. As usual, no nonsense recipe.
In AbuDhabi, unripe strawberries and subpar vinegar are the norm, but I believe it may well work.

Paul Atlan | 22 August, 2011 - 17:37

Re: Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

" ichigo miruku. It's such a popular combination that there is even candy with that ichigo miruku flavor. Basically, you pour some cold milk over a bowl of strawberries, and crush the strawberries into the milk."

Haa this sis something what i as a child did. We have thesame thing here in Estonia too. Also we used to mix blueberries with strawberries the same way together with milk and sugar (at least in oure household).

liiloo | 15 June, 2013 - 18:49

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