Balsamic vinegar basics
Balsamic vinegar has been used for centuries in Europe. It is used because of its inherent good qualities which make it a delicious seasoning as well as a healthy tonic. If balsamic vinegar is made a regular part of one’s diet, its effects are manifold.
There are reports that vinegar has an impressive assortment of health benefits for the body.
- Balsamic vinegar acts as a natural suppressant of appetite
- Balsamic vinegar assists in producing greater disease fighting oxidants
- The amino acids may work to slow the ageing process
- Balsamic vinegar aids production of digestion enzymes thus improving metabolism
- It may act as a natural pain reliever that can assuage headaches
- The added minerals help in strengthening of bones and fight anemia as well as fatigue.
True authentic balsamic vinegar comes only from Modena or Reggio Italy. This region is situated in the northern part of Italy, close to the Gulf of Genoa. True balsamico is made from Trebbiano grapes, as they have a naturally high sugar content. The unfermented juice of these white grapes is known as ‘must’ and is used for production of balsamic vinegar. The true balsamic vinegar has a syrupy consistency and a sweet and fruity flavor. It is also characterized by its unusually dark color. The history of Modena balsamico is fraught with references that divulge the importance and value of balsamic vinegar. This product was highly treasured. The daughters of the Modenese nobility were given casks filled with balsamic vinegar as dowry.
Traditional balsamic vinegar is the harmonious blend of five things which can be summed up as follows:
5. Heritage or artisan style of production
The uniqueness of balsamic vinegar produced in Modena is attributed to the environmental conditions of the place which is directly responsible for production of the fine white Trebbiano grapes with a high content of sugar. The Trebbiano grapes thrive in the light layered soil of Modena and its transitional climate which records a large temperature range. It is very hot in summer and extremely cold in winter. Traditionally, the grapes are harvested late in summer to take full advantage of the natural warmth of the region. Then these grapes are cooked for more than eight hours to get the required ‘must’.
A caramelization process follows, which results in a change in the color of the ‘must’. Once the ‘must’ obtains a specific density, it is transferred to large oaken casks and left to acidify. Progressive concentration follows through ageing in a series of casks with varying types of wood like oak and chestnut. No other spices or flavorings are added during this process. Many elements contribute to the end flavor of this unique seasoning which include the previous vinegar of the barrel, the type of wood, climate etc. The entire process takes a number of years and the end result is a distinct balsamic vinegar.
Authentic balsamic vinegar is difficult to obtain, unless its origin is from the Modena or Reggio consortiums. Around 75% of the commercial grade balsamic vinegar that is available is actually red wine vinegar with no must at all. It is characterized by the lighter color and a distinctly strong acidic smell and taste. balsamic vinegar, Modena vinegar, balsamic, Reggio vinegar