Balsamic Cooking Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar has become very popular in the world of gourmet cooking. This exquisite condiment is a rich, dark, sweet and sour, dense vinegar that is produced in Modena and Reggio, in the Emilia â€“ Romagna region of Italy. It is the focus of attention at prime restaurants, gourmet food periodicals and on the shelves of gourmet grocers all over the world. However, many consumers using the vinegar regularly would be surprised to know that they have not even tasted the authentic balsamico.Most supermarkets stock industrially produced vinegars. They are available in a wide range of flavors and qualities. They are often packaged in beautifully crafted bottles, with ornate labeling. As far as quality, there is something to suit every budget. A good quality vinegar is determined by the method of production and not the name, packaging or price. The commercial vinegars are not aged for years like the original tradizionale. The time intensive process of making fine balsamico is expensive and requires years of tending. A commercial grade of balsamic vinegar was instituted. Elaborate mixtures of aged vinegar of different vintages are contrived to mass produce commercial balsamico, in keeping with the high demands.
The premium varieties are marketed as condiments. Some of these made in the Modena artisan style by blending the must of cooked grape and aged wine vinegar. Many are a blend of very old wine vinegars to which a small portion of aged wine vinegar has been added and then aged in wooden barrels for a short while.One of the most popular varieties of commercially produced vinegar is labeled ‘aceto balsamico di Modena’. However, the labels need to be checked for the API MO or the API RE mark, which is the indication that the vinegar was actually produced in Italy. Many imitation vinegars can be produced anywhere from Palestine to New Jersey.
The true Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale should not be confused with commercially produced vinegar that has been labeled as balsamico. They are merely a seasoning and no more. Experts say ‘you get what you pay for’. Some excellent commercial producers are Villa Bellentani and Masserie di Sant ’Erame Balsamic vinegars of Modena.When buying vinegar, sample it, as each vinegar has a subtly different flavor. Some have a sweet and sour taste while some have a distinctly woody flavor. Quality balsamico will have a viscous syrupy consistency. Buy whatever flavor personally appeals to your taste.One has to be wary of the imitation balsamics available in the markets today. Some have caramel added to enrich their color while other claim to make ‘white balsamic vinegar,’ to which no caramel or artificial colorings have been added. Such vinegars are not authentic at all. True balsamico never has any added color or artificial flavorings. The rich dark color of the tradizionale comes from the natural caramelization of grape must that continues in the ageing years in the barrels. Authentic Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale never contains ‘caramel’.
The imitation balsamic vinegars are normally produced outside Modena and Reggio. Nevertheless, some of them are labeled Aceto Balsamico di Modena. Mostly they are red wine vinegar cut with water containing no balsamic or cooked grape must. No fermentation or aging is done so it can be produced in a matter of 24 hours as opposed to true balsamico which takes at least 12 years to mature. Caramel, vanilla, or sugars are never added to true balsamico, but they are an ingredient for imitation vinegars which add the sweet flavor and simulates complexity.
Modena balsamic, Italian balsamico