Everything You Need to Know About Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is a condiment that was once known only to those in the Emilia-Romagna region of what is now modern Italy and was produced only in the provinces of Reggio Emilia, where Henry III was visiting, and also in neighboring Modena.
As far back as 900 years ago, vintners in the Modena, Italy region were making balsamic vinegar, which was taken as a tonic and bestowed as a mark of favor to those of importance.
Although it is commonly considered a wine vinegar, it is not a wine vinegar at all. It is not made from wine, but from grape pressings that have never been permitted to ferment into wine. The name “balsamic” connotes the vinegar’s original use as a tonic, or “balm.”
Balsamic Vinegar Facts – Different Types of Balsamic Vinegar
ACETO BALSAMICO TRADIZIONALE DI MODENA DOP
In Italy most products bearing this name are protected by a denomination of origin, regulating where and how it is produced. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP is the gold standard.
The craft and patience going into each batch results in a liquid of intense complexity. To this day it is only made in Reggio Emilia and Modena, Italy, using traditional methods, and production is overseen from beginning to end by a special certification agency.
Color and Texture: ACETO BALSAMICO TRADIZIONALE DI MODENA DOP, referred to here as Traditional Balsamic vinegar, is glossy, viscous, and dark brown, though it captures light beautifully . It moves like syrup, and has a velvety texture on the tongue.
Flavor: A rich, complex sweetness that explodes in the mouth with notes of fig, molasses, cherry, chocolate, or prune. Traditional balsamic should pick up the flavors of the wood it matured in, and may have a slight smokiness. Traditional balsamic offers a mellow tartness rather than a strong acidity.
Usage: Traditional balsamic is not a cooking ingredient — heating it will kill its distinctive bouquet. Traditional balsamic can be used at the end of cooking.
Condimento Balsamico is most often an excellent balsamic vinegar made outside of Modena and Reggio Emilia, or it may be a vinegar made by traditional producers that has only been aged for three or five or seven years.
These products are generally less expensive than traditional balsamic, but often still excellent in quality, so they may represent better value for the money.
Color and Texture: Because balsamic is cooked down and then further condensed by maturation, it tends to have greater viscosity and depth of color the older it is and the richer its flavor. A good condimento should really coat the walls of a glass.
Flavor: Condimento lacks the woody notes and lingering complexity of traditional balsamic, but should still offer a wonderful mix of acidity, sweetness, and leathery, cherry flavors.
Usage: Condimento should be used exactly as a traditional balsamic is used, with the advantage that you can use it more liberally because it’s less expensive.
BALSAMIC VINEGAR OF MODENA IGP
The product is made from grape varietals typical of Modena (Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana. Lambrusco, Montuni, Sangiovese, and Trebbiano), though the grapes can be from anywhere and only need to be processed in Modena.
This is the only way balsamic vinegar of Modena can be produced in volumes sufficient to meet demand.
Color and Texture: The appearance of balsamic vinegar of Modena I.G.P. is hugely variable both because additives are permitted and because the ratio of wine vinegar to grape must is variable. If the label doesn’t list any thickeners and the vinegar seems thick, it probably has a high percentage of grape must.
Flavor: I.G.P. balsamic has a higher acidity, and that’s strongly reflected in the taste. This isn’t a complex condiment, but closer to a standard vinegar with a touch of sweetness. These kinds of vinegar vary substantially in quality, which may be reflected in the price. Darker kinds of vinegar ought to be sweeter. Expensive kinds of vinegar ought to be more complex.
There are some kinds of vinegar on shelves that use the word “balsamic” that are really just vinegar with sweetener and coloring. They may be made with wine vinegar, white vinegar, or cider vinegar, and they’re industrially-produced to emulate the texture and flavor of balsamic, at a fraction of the price.
Some balsamic-style vinegars are produced outside of Italy— e.g. in Spain, Greece, France, the U.S., or Canada. Some of these approach the quality of good balsamic vinegar, and the clues are always in the ingredients.
If the ingredients only list cooked must, it’s a high-end balsamic imitator. If it contains cooked must and vinegar, it’s closer to an I.G.P. While these vinegars are nothing like traditional balsamic, they do have a place in the kitchen in things like salad dressings and marinades. Check ingredients and taste around to find one you like.
Balsamic Vinegar Facts – What Are The Health Benefits Of Balsamic Vinegar?
From ancient folk medicine to modern miracle, Balsamic vinegar has been used since ancient times as a zesty seasoning and a healthy tonic to relieve fatigue, help digestion and aid in weight loss. Some studies suggest that balsamic vinegar has additional health benefits, ranging from improving a person’s complexion to lowering cholesterol.
Balsamic vinegar contains a lot of antioxidants that can enhance cell growth and can prevent your skin from aging prematurely. Its antioxidants also harden your body’s arterial walls, therefore enhancing blood circulation as well.
The antioxidants contained in balsamic vinegar can also enhance your body’s immune system. In the process, it can help you avoid infections, inflammations, and health issues that can lead to serious cancer.
The digestive system can benefit greatly from balsamic vinegar. The vinegar boosts the activity of pepsin, an enzyme that breaks protein down into smaller amino acids that can be more easily absorbed by the body.
Pepsin helps to improve the body’s metabolism as well. Balsamic vinegar can also improve insulin sensitivity for diabetics allowing for an easier regulation of blood sugar and reducing unpleasant side effects of diabetes.
Red grapes, like those used in making balsamic vinegar, contain a bioflavonoid known as quercetin. This works as an antioxidant and operates with Vitamin C to stimulate the immune system to fight infection, cancer, and inflammation.
The seeds in grapes contain a substance called pycnogenols. This substance has a high degree of antioxidant and fights arthritis, cardiovascular problems, stress and allergies.
The resveratrol in grapes has been the aim of recent research. The University of Illinois recent studies show promising evidence that balsamic vinegar consumption slows down or stops the growth of tumors. Studies show it inhibits tumor growth at the initiation, promotion and progression stages.
France’s Liver Research Study Group says resveratrol helps prevent liver cancer by blocking the invasion of tumor cells. Science laboratories report findings that it stops the development of an enzyme linked to breast cancer.
The University of Wisconsin’s research shows that flavonoids in purple grape juice prevent the thickening of the arteries that hinder the flow of blood to the heart.
Antioxidants work to repair damage caused by free radicals, which are products produced by the oxygen used in our body. Balsamic vinegar contains polyphenols- antioxidants that can protect the body from heart disease and cancer.
The grapes that are used to make balsamic vinegar also contain antioxidants that fight against cell damage, improve the body’s immune system and make blood platelets more flexible, thus preventing heart or circulation problems.
Balsamic vinegar also works to suppress the body’s appetite and increase the amount of time it takes for the stomach to empty, which can contribute to weight loss by preventing overeating. According to nutrition data, balsamic vinegar is a source of calcium, iron, manganese and potassium, which improve the body’s functioning and weight loss abilities.
What Kind Of Recipes Are Enhanced With Balsamic Vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar has grown in popularity. Some may credit this to creative chefs at upscale restaurants or the growing interest and availability of international foods. The rich, slightly sweet flavor of balsamic vinegar readily lends itself to salad dressings, gourmet marinades, and sauces.
A dash can also add flavor to a soup or stew. It brings out the sweetness of fresh fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, and peaches. Today, balsamic vinegar is known to cooks around the world and available to shoppers everywhere.
There are three basic age groups of balsamic vinegar, and each is used and paired differently:
1. The youngest balsamic vinegar group, 3 to 5 years, is good for salad dressings, and dipping sauces for vegetables and bread. This vinegar has enough flavor to dress a salad or veggies by itself or when mixed with equal parts olive oil.
2. 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 steak marinades. Also, try mixing it with mayo for a great tangy/sweet sandwich condiment.
3. Well-aged balsamic vinegar (12 to 150+ years) is the most expensive and most treasured balsamic vinegar. It has a thick glossy dark brown syrup consistency, and has a velvety texture on the tongue.
This gem is not meant to be cooked, but rather it is best used and paired with fresh fruit, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, or others alike, on a stunning dish like fresh mozzarella caprese, or topped on cooked mild dishes like risottos, meat stews (bollito misto), or roasted vegetables, and vanilla gelato; even better, try it on pistachio gelato.
Other uses: Makes a perfect glaze for roasted or grilled pork and lamb, sauteed chicken and baked salmon. Try brushing it on in the last few minutes of cooking, or over roasted vegetables like asparagus, mushrooms or eggplant.
Other desserts may include pannacotta with sliced fresh strawberries and zabaglione. It may also be enjoyed by itself (just a tiny amount) or added to flavor your favorite tea, and water (or sparkling water) for a refreshing beverage.
Last but not least, it makes a great addition to any cocktail made with bourbon or spiced rum.
Balsamic Vinegar Facts -How Long Does Balsamic Vinegar Last?
How long does balsamic vinegar last? Not long in my house! Balsamic vinegar does not go bad unless stored in a bottle with its cap removed. You only need to store balsamic vinegar in a cool, dark place away from heat, such as in the cupboard. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
It won’t oxidize once opened and will keep indefinitely. You don’t have to worry if you see some sediment at the bottom of the bottle. That is a natural byproduct of the aging process and it isn’t harmful. The thing to remember is that vinegar often becomes cloudy and that’s completely normal; the liquid is still safe to consume.
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