Balsamic vinegar enhances nearly any food it touches as it is so much more than a salad dressing.
You can use balsamic vinegar to marinate meats, glaze roasted vegetables and even as a baking ingredient.
The process of making balsamic vinegar is a more than 900 year old tradition from Italy.
How Balsamic Vinegar Is Made
Balsamic vinegar is made by pressing grapes complete with the stem, seeds, and skin.
The unfermented grape juice, also called “grape must,” is reduced and then cooked down and aged in hard wood barrels either oak, cherry or walnut, to create a delicate flavor that expertly balances both sweet and savory.
Depending on the wood barrels being used, flavor is added to the essence of the balsamic gradually over time.
As it ages, moisture evaporates out, further thickening and concentrating the balsamic.
Traditional Balsamic verses Commercial Made
Many consumers outside of Italy are unaware of the fact that there are two types of balsamic vinegar.
According to Compass and Fork, the balsamic vinegars sold at a local market or gourmet food shops are commercially made vinegar, and even if it says Modena on it, it has not been produced according to the traditional standard.
To be able to be labelled as a balsamic from Modena, only one step in the process has to be performed and it can be to any quality standard.
Though the bottled balsamic vinegar is sold at moderate pricing, it is only bottled in Modena.
Traditionally produced balsamic vinegar is also protected under labeling laws, with only products made in a particular way and in Modena bearing the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena label.
How To Use Balsamic Vinegar
There are three basic age groups of balsamic vinegar, and each is used differently:
The youngest group, 3 to 5 years, is good for salad dressings, dipping sauces for vegetables and bread, sauces and marinades.
The middle age group, 6 to 11 years, is more viscous and is quite versatile. 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.
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 shine on its own.
Use it to flavor meat like chicken, steak, fish or veal. It is well-suited to fruit and cheese pairings, such as strawberries, peaches and pears, along with ricotta or feta cheese.
It may be enjoyed by itself (just a tiny amount) or added to water (or sparkling water) for a refreshing beverage.
Flavors Infused with Commercially Made Balsamic Vinegar
There are commercially made balsamic vinegars that are infused with different flavors such as but not limit too:
- Chile Balsamic Vinegar
- Garlic Cilantro Balsamic Vinegar
- Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar
- White Sesame Ginger Balsamic Vinegar
- Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar
- Cranberry Balsamic Vinegar
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