Balsamic vinegar or just balsamic is the most exquisite of Italian seasonings. Traditional balsamic is very thick in consistency and even resembles tar, including in color. Among food vinegars, balsamic is the most fragrant and has a very pleasant sweet and sour taste with rich fruity notes.
Let's figure out why and why it is needed, where can I add it?
The first documented mention of balsamic vinegar occurs in 1046. It was this year that the Italian marquis presented an unusual gift to the German ruler Henry II. After this incident, balsamic vinegar was considered a gift worthy of kings. At the end of the 18th century, a small barrel of vinegar was presented to the Austrian Emperor Franz in connection with his ascension to the throne.
For a long time it was available only to the very noble and wealthy. A unique product could be passed on as an inheritance from generation to generation, and could also be a dowry for the bride. To this day, the production of vinegar is a family business, and the barrels are inherited. Therefore, on some lines of barrels in family production, you can see the names of their owners.
The place where balsamic was first obtained is considered the region of Italy Emilia-Romagna and its province of Modena. Only families from the middle and upper classes had access to the preparation of the unique product. Each family had its own secret recipe, and family cooking secrets were used. Moreover, it is interesting that initially balsamic vinegar was used only in medicine. He was equated with a medicine and was considered a panacea for many diseases.
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Later, its ability to disinfect water, soften meat fibers and promote the preservation of products was discovered. After that, balsamic was actively used in cooking as a seasoning. This ingredient is included in the recipe for almost any dish. Maybe that is why among the Italians there are a very large number of centenarians.
In 1893, the scientific community became interested in a noble product. Professor Fausto Sestini published his work "About Balsamic vinegar of Modena", in which he proved a significant difference between ordinary vinegar, including wine, from traditional balsamic vinegar. Since 1967, the Modena Society of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (aceto balsamico di Modena) began to actively popularize the “royal” product, while not forgetting about its quality. As a result of such work, the balsamic came out of the shadows and began to march around the world. Along with it, the cultural and gastronomic traditions of the Italian provinces spread, which became the homeland for a unique product - Modena and Emilia-Romagna. Not far from Modena, in a town called Spilamberto, a museum even opened.
- Why balsamic? The name appeared in the Renaissance, when vinegar was used as a balm. He was treated for wounds and was taken for sore throat. Did this treatment help? Probably yes. After all, the antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties of traditional balsamic vinegar have glorified it as a magical tool. The medieval Aesculapius tried to cure even the plague with it. And Casanova used balm before dates as an aphrodisiac.
- How to distinguish a fake? This traditional balsamic is almost black in color and very thick in consistency. Pour it into 100 ml containers, on each of which a label with the word "tradizionale" is necessarily present. The cost of good traditional vinegar is quite high. Although among the inexpensive options you can find relatively good options.
- Why so expensive? To prepare a small amount of balsamic vinegar in the traditional way, a large amount of high-quality grape must is needed. And, of course, it takes time, not less than 12 years.
- Is it possible to mix with something? Not just possible, but sometimes even necessary. A couple of drops of traditional balsamic oil for 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and a delicious salad dressing is ready. In addition, such a sauce is a great way to overcome cholesterol.
Preparation: what is balsamic vinegar made of?
The process of creating balsamic is much more complicated and longer than the preparation of apple or wine vinegar. There are two ways to prepare balsamic vinegar: industrial and artisanal. Moreover, the product manufactured industrially in Modena is considered the best in the world.
Special grape varieties are used to produce the final product. Such as spergola, bertzemino, lambrusco. They grow only in the provinces of Emilia-Romagna. Strict requirements for the quality of vinegar begin with the selection of grape berries. They must be fully matured, unspoiled and in no case subjected to chemical treatment. The special climatic conditions of the Italian provinces contribute to the receipt of just such a quality product.
The harvested grapes are squeezed, and the resulting juice begins to boil. The process lasts until about 40% remains from the original volume. The resulting thick and dark product is called grape must. And it is from him that in three stages they get real balsamic vinegar.
Barrels of various sizes made from different types of wood are involved in the production. Each type of tree gives its balsamic aroma. For example, in a barrel of chestnut rich in tannins, vinegar acquires its dark color, juniper saturates it with essential oils, cherry wood gives the vinegar sweetness, and in oak barrels the product acquires a slightly vanilla aroma. The volume of barrels involved in the production of balsamic vinegar ranges from 10 to 100 liters.
Filled containers are installed in the attic. It is this arrangement that allows all seasons to participate in the process of creating a balsamic. Every year, in the spring, vinegar is poured from a larger barrel into a smaller one, and part of the new grape must is added to the largest. Like the masters of the Middle Ages, modern vinegar producers keep the exact technology and the names of spices in the strictest confidence, giving vinegar its uniqueness.
After 12 years, "young" or refined balsamic vinegar is considered ready. The aging process of the “mature” or extra mature product continues another 13 years minimum. The finished product has a dark brown, almost black, color, strong density and lasting aroma.
How to choose
Balsamic vinegar produced in Modena is packaged in a container of thick white glass with a volume of 100 ml. The bottom of such a bottle is necessarily square. Bottles intended for a product from other provinces of Emilia-Romagna in form are more likely to resemble an inverted tulip made of the same white glass.
Corked bottles with various caps, the color of which depends on the exposure of balsamic. For example, in Modena, an endurance of 12 years is distinguished by a cream-colored lid, 25 years by gold, and in Emilie-Romagna, the markings for 12-year-old vinegar are red, 18 years are silver, and more than 25 years are golden.
An original product from Italy necessarily contains the word "tradizionale" in its name. For example, "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena" or "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia".
The price of traditional balsamic vinegar, whose age is not less than 12 years, is not lower than 500 euros per liter. The cost for a bottle of young balsamic from the manufacturer is about 40-50 euros, and for a mature product you have to part with at least 70 euros.
On the shelves of shops you can see cheaper options. Unlike expensive varieties, they are prepared using red wine and wine vinegar, and have much less aging. Thanks to this, the process is cheaper, and the finished product to taste resembles traditional balsamic. Having tried, even among such a product, you can find an acceptable taste, with which you can give the already familiar products a new shade.
Today, traditional balsamic, as before, attracts consumers with its positive therapeutic effect. Especially often it is used after a meal to improve the digestion process. But unlike in ancient times, the main area of use of traditional balsamic vinegar today is, of course, cooking.
The best is the use of vinegar in its raw form. It combines particularly well with strawberries and parmesan, allowing these products to fully reveal their shades of taste and aroma.
Balsamic vinegar salad dressing
Just a few drops of a traditional balsamic salad can perfectly complement the taste of a regular olive oil dressing. But you should not be limited only to salad dressings. This unique product is able to ennoble almost any dish. For example, a meat dish will reveal new facets of taste after adding a few drops of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking.
The use of balsamic vinegar is primarily characteristic of Italian cuisine. Its note is always easily recognizable, despite the small amount. Without this unique seasoning, not a single respected Italian chef works. This amazing product has an indispensable property to enhance the aroma of any ingredient, complementing it with its unique taste.
If you mix a little balsamic oil with fresh olive oil, you get a delicious salad dressing. Serving it separately with slices of fresh bread that you can dunk in it can be a great start to dinner. Balsamic is also suitable for marinades. In this case, the taste of the dish acquires a delicate taste. A great addition is balsamic vinegar for seafood. For example, rice with squid or shrimp with avocado.
A combination of traditional dark vinegar and cheese salad with green leaves, tomatoes and soft cheese is considered a classic in cooking. Perhaps the most unusual is the combination of sweet and sour balsamic with strawberries. Berries are sprinkled with vinegar, sprinkled with powdered sugar and spread on the leaves of arugula. After 20 minutes, lettuce can be served.
Traditional balsamic vinegar contains a large amount of vitamins A, C and group B. It is also rich in trace elements necessary for the body, such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus and iron. The polyphenols included in its composition give it strong antioxidant properties.
Moderate consumption of vinegar can help prevent the development of both cancer and heart disease. And the presence of B vitamins helps to stabilize the nervous system and improve brain activity. Do not forget about the beneficial properties of balsamic, thanks to which it gained fame and got its name - antibacterial. Thanks to these properties, digestion is stimulated, pathogenic microflora is suppressed, and a general beneficial effect on the body is felt.
Beauticians also did not ignore this amazing seasoning, and widely use it in recipes for anti-aging products, anti-cellulite products and hair treatments.
Tip: to maximize the benefits of this amazing product, do not heat it.
And in conclusion, I would like to say that in order to fully understand what real balsamic vinegar from Modena is, it is worth visiting the homeland of this product. Then you will definitely have something to compare. By the way, the production of balsamic in Modena is so popular that even the municipality uses it. Rows of barrels in the attic are waiting for the end of the fermentation of the jewel, which made Modena famous throughout the world.