Learn What Is Balsamic Vinegar & How To Cook With It

Balsamic Vinegar is a reduction developed from grapes, but it is not categorized as a wine vinegar due to the fact that the grape juice used is unfermented. The unfermented white sweet grape juice that is used is better known as “must” and comes from Trebbiano grapes.

To start of, the grape juice is cooked gently in a copper cauldron until it is reduced by 35 to 50 per cent. Next, the reduction is placed (along with some already-aged vinegar to begin the process) into oak barrels to age.

Each year, some of the vinegar evaporates, and the vinegar is relocated into a smaller barrel made of a variety of wood types such as:

  • Chestnut
  • Cherry
  • Juniper
  • Mulberry
  • Cacia
  • And ash

Each wood used infuses a distinct flavor into the vinegar, making it more unique. And as the vinegar ages and becomes concentrated, it gets thick, sweet and dark.

This process originates from the northern Italian city of Modena. If Balsamic Vinegar is made following the basic standards of Modena (which includes each type of wood barrel) and passes a brutal taste test, it may be accounted for as Tradizionale di Modena.

Reggio-Emilia is another Italian city where traditional Balsamic Vinegar is created (vinegars made here would be called tradizionale di Reggio-Emilia).

Unfortunately, often times, these Balsamic Vinegars can be quite expensive but are amazing for flavoring meat, as a dip for strawberries, and even as a flavoring for a sweet beverage.

You might be more familiar with a more notable Balsamic Vinegar, which has a much shorter aging process. This Balsamic Vinegar is fantastic for using in salad dressings, marinades, sauces, and pastas.

How To Use Balsamic Vinegar When Cooking

There are three basic age groups of balsamic vinegar, and each is used differently:

  1. The youngest group, 3 to 5 years, is great for salad dressings, dipping sauces for vegetables and bread, sauces and marinades.
  2. The middle age group, 6 to 11 years, is more syrupy and is quite adaptable. Our Balsamic Vinegar specialist that you use it in sauces (at the end of cooking), in risotto and pasta dishes, in marinades and mixed with mayonnaise or sour cream for a sandwich condiment.
  3. Well-aged balsamic vinegar (12 to 150+ years) is best used after the cooking is finished, and in otherwise mild dishes (nothing spicy or heavily seasoned), so it can get its glory on its own.  

You can use it to flavor meat like chicken, steak, fish or veal. It is perfectly made to use with fruit and cheese pairings, such as strawberries, peaches and pears, along with ricotta or feta cheese.