Get to Know the History of Balsamic Vinegar
Originating from the Modena and Reggio Emilia regions of Italy, Balsamic Vinegar has been a traditional condiment since the Middle Ages. Documents date back to 1046 on the first historical reference about the production of Balsamic Vinegar.
During the Italian Renaissance, it was indulged and appreciated by the House of Este, a noble family that governed Modena and Reggio during the 13th – 18th centuries. Other cultures through the ages used vinegar as a preservative and disinfectant. In modern day, vinegar is still used for its disinfectant properties as a natural household cleaner, but is also used for preserving, cooking, and seasoning.
On the other hand, Balsamic Vinegar is created from age-old family traditions and is considered a prized condiment. The aging process takes a minimum of 12 years and the deliciously sweet and thick syrup is meant to be savored. This is why true traditional Balsamic Vinegars yield higher prices.
Varieties of Balsamic Vinegar
Traditional vinegars of Modena and Reggio Emilia are both true traditional artisan Balsamic Vinegars that are legally created with consortium supervision. These two traditional Balsamic Vinegars are the only ones that can be labeled and legally described as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.
In addition, they are protected under the watchful eye of the Italian Denominazione di Origine Protetta and the European Union’s Protected Designation of Origin.
The production of Balsamic Vinegar generally begins with the juice of Trebbiano grapes that has been boiled down to create a thick reduction called must. The must is then placed into wooden barrels called casks, similar to those used in winemaking, to begin the aging process.
The casks are stored in the attic, not a cellar, to keep the climate consistent with the time of year – hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Every year, the vinegar is transferred to new wood casks, decreasing in size due to the evaporation of liquid over the years.
An assortment of woods such as oak, cherry, chestnut, ash, and mulberry are used to enhance the flavors absorbed by the liquid during the years of aging. The longer the vinegar is aged, the more concentrated it becomes, intensifying the flavor. The aging period must be a minimum of 12 years to be labeled “Tradizionale” and consortium-sealed in a distinct bulb-shaped bottle.
Balsamic Vinegar is often drizzled over fresh mozzarella and tomatoes as an antipasto, mixed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil in droplets for dipping bread, and sprinkled over fresh strawberries or even ice cream.
Condimento Balsamic Vinegars, often labeled “Condimento Balsamico,” are also created the traditional way in Modena or Reggio Emilia. The difference between tradizionale and condimento grades is the length of time they are aged. Condimento grades are aged less than 12 years and without consortium supervision and approval, making it difficult to tell their true quality.
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is a commercial grade product made with additives such as coloring, thickeners, and artificial sweeteners to imitate the traditional products. There is no aging involved, so it can be produced every day.
You usually see this type of Balsamic Vinegar at you local grocery store shelves. It is widely available and less expensive than the traditional balsamics, with prices starting as low as $6.00. It is used for salad dressings, marinades, and sauces.
Infused Balsamic Vinegars
Bring a little thrill, fun and enjoyment to your cooking and recipes by adding Balsamic Vinegars that have been infused with a variety of ingredients. With a handful of choices, you can experiment with your recipes by substituting regular vinegar with an Infused Balsamic Vinegar. Be creative! You may be pleasantly surprised at what you come up with!
Some of the Infused Balsamic Vinegars on the market today include:
- Citrus Infused
- Fruit Infused Balsamic Vinegar
- Specialty Infused Balsamic Vinegars
Did you know that drinking a tiny glass of Balsamic Vinegar after a meal may help with digestion?
- Alexis Barros