An Insight Into Balsamic Vinegar
There is a good deal of confusion about balsamic vinegar. On the grocery store shelves you will find $3.00 bottles next to $25.00 bottles (often the $3.00 bottles have fancier labels). But, buyer beware! Not all balsamic vinegars are what they appear to be.
Standards adopted and administered by consortia in Modena and Reggio Emilia govern every aspect of how balsamic vinegar is produced and aged. This includes the jar shape and also the foil that covers the cap.
Tasted straight from the jar, there was no competition between supermarket and traditional balsamic vinegars.
Even the finest of the commercial bunch -- although similarly sweet, brown, and viscous -- couldn't compete with the complicated, rich flavor of authentic balsamic vinegar. With notes of honey, fig, raisin, caramel, and wood; a smooth, lingering taste; and an aroma like fine interface, traditional balsamic is good enough to sip like liqueur.
Guide To Balsamic Vinegars:
What is balsamic vinegar? Balsamic vinegar is a reduction made from grapes, but it is not considered a wine vinegar because the grape juice used is unfermented. The unfermented white sweet grape juice that is utilized is called has to and stems from the Trebbiano grapes.
You will find a great deal of balsamic vinegars in your local shops. Some are worth their high price and others are not. Often, the less expensive ones may fit your needs just fine. Even though there is really only one"True" balsamic vinegar, there are actually 3 types of balsamic vinegars that you will encounter on your next shopping experience. Determine which type of balsamic vinegar is for you to use in your cooking and different recipes:
Authentic aceto balsamic vinegar comes in 3.4 ounce bottles and sells from $50.00 to $500.00 per bottle. It must be aged a minimum of 10 year. The superior balsamic vinegars are aged 25 to 50 years (these are not to be poured, but used by the drop). Dark in color and syrup in consistency, they have a flavor that is a balance of sweet and sour. Tradizionale has a mellow acidity and a sharp aroma.
Have a look at the seal, list of components, and the cap for clues. Read the label for cooked grape must, the term"tradizionale," and the length of time vinegar has aged.
Follow these helpful clues offered by The Vinegar Institute:
Make sure the consortium seal is over the cap, as well as about the label.
Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is only bottled at the distinct bulb-shaped, 100-milliliter jar.
Modena brands use red and silver labels to indicate aging of 12 and 18 years respectively.
A gold cap indicates a minimal age of 20 years.
Look for a bottle that comes in a box with a book containing recipes and a description of the process of manufacture and recipes.
Locate traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena in fine gourmet shops.
Find a Good-Quality, Medium-Priced, Balsamic Vinegar to use in your cooking:
Use a good-quality balsamic vinegar that is usually aged around ten years. Use in recipes calling for larger quantities of balsamic vinegar. This grade of balsamic vinegar is also referred to as salad balsamic (balsamic insalata), which gives you a clue as to how it's used. This is the grade of balsamic vinegar used on your own cooking, such as for a flavorful salad dressing, to flavor enhance soups and stews, and also used as a marinade.
Good-quality balsamic vinegars have brown sugar or caramel added to mimic the sweetness of the besy-quality ones.
If a company creates a"traditional" balsamic vinegar, they will also produce a less expensive, but high quality vinegar as well. This is the same vinegar with the same heritage although not aged as long. You can have confidence in purchasing these balsamic vinegars. CHECK YOUR LABELS!
Brief History of Balsamic Vinegar:
Until approximately 25 years ago in the late 1970s, true balsamic vinegar Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, as it is called in Italian, was an Italian artisan merchandise relatively unknown outside of Italy.
The same state that brought you such notable artists as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, as part of the Renaissance, also provides a culinary artistry that offers incomparable quality and taste -- the wonderfully adaptable aged balsamic vinegar, aceto balsamico di Modena. Balsamic vinegar can only be created from the regions of Modena and Reggio in Italy.
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale has actually been being made for nearly a thousand years, but never for commercial use. It was a well kept guard family key to the rest of the world and relatively unknown even to other Italians. Instead families could pass it on as an heirloom, give it away in rather small vials to friends, or bequeath it to a daughter as part of her dowry.
The first historical reference to balsamic vinegar dates back to 1046, when a bottle of balsamic vinegar was reportedly given to Emperor Enrico III of Franconia as a gift. From the Middle Ages, it was used as a disinfectant. It also had a reputation as a miracle remedy -- great for everything from sore throats to labor pains.
Production of Balsamic Vinegar:
The production of balsamic vinegar resembles that of wine making. Balsamic vinegar is an aged loss of white candy grapes (Trebbiano for red and Spergola for white sauvignon) that are boiled to a syrup.
The grapes are cooked very slowly in copper cauldrons over an open flame until the water content is reduced by over 50%. The resulting"must" is placed into wooden barrels and an older balsamic vinegar is added to assist in the acetification.
Each year the vinegar is transferred to different wood barrels so that the vinegar can obtain some of the flavors of the different woods. The single approved woods are oak, cherry, chestnut, mulberry, a cacia, juniper, and ash. The age of the vinegar is broken up into youthful -- from 3 to 5 years maturation; middle aged 6 to 12 years and the highly prized very old that is at least 12 years and around 150 years old.
- Neil Naran