Your Guide To Balsamic Vinegar
Excite Your Taste Buds with Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Just imagine sitting down with a glass of Chardonnay and an entrée comprising slices of red vine ripened tomatoes alternating with slices of soft, white bocconcini cheese.
Scattered on the top is finely chopped basil over which is drizzled tangy aged balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
On the side is a serve of bruschetta, thick cut Italian bread, which has been gently rubbed with garlic and spread with good quality olive oil.
It’s enough to make your mouth water!
This simple meal is enhanced by a combination of flavors but it is the balsamic vinegar that gives it the depth and richness in flavor
A Bit of History
Balsamic vinegar has a long history that can be traced back to 1046 when a barrel was given to the Holy Roman emperor Henry 111 at the time of his coronation. Italian women had a long tradition of making balsamic vinegar long before this time. The family recipe was handed down through the women and they were responsible for keeping it a closely guarded secret while the men built and maintained the barrels used for ageing the vinegar.
Types of Balsamic Vinegar
There are three types of balsamic vinegars, those made in Modena and Reggio by the ancient artisan method, the commercial brands from outside Modena and Reggio; and the imitations which while they have their uses they do not have the flavor or the quality of artisan produced balsamic vinegar. While imitations generally have a rancid flavor that may ruin your recipe, a commercial brand is quite acceptable and will suit most of your dishes although they tend to be more acidic than the artisan brands.
What to look for when buying Balsamic Vinegar
There are a lot of low budget imitations in the market place and they have their place for the budget conscious. They are different in taste and texture from the high quality balsamic vinegars. Simply seeing the words Modena or ‘bottled in Italy’ is not sufficient for the buyer to think they are buying a quality product; after all there are a huge range of balsamic vinegars produced in Italy.
If you are looking for a high quality product you need to look for labeling that includes the wording “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena” or “di Reggio Emillia”. Tradizionale is the most important word on the label if you are looking to purchase the purest form of Balsamic vinegar.
How is Balsamic Vinegar made?
Balsamic vinegar is made from the white Trebbiano grape. The grapes are crushed and the juice is left until it just starts to ferment at which time it is filtered and then boiled in copper pots until it is reduced to about 30 to 50-percent of its original volume. Over the years, the vinegar is decanted through a number of wooden barrels and it is this process that defines the flavor. There is around 85% evaporation in vinegar that has been left to mature. Families add a small amount of vinegar from one vintage to the next so as to define the flavor of their particular recipe.
Vinegar which is 3-5 years old is considered to be young and is ideal for marinades and for de-glazing pans, 6-12 years is considered to be middle aged and is used in pasta, dressings, sauces or added in the last stages of cooking casseroles, 12 -150 years is highly prized and the old vinegars are used sparingly; so although they are expensive, they will last a long time if stored correctly.
When you are in Italy a visit to a balsamic artisan’s studio to see the making of the vinegar and taste the creamy produce is well worth considering.