Balsamic Vinegar is a thick, tangy liquid with a sweet aroma made by fermenting sweet wine grapes and then aging the fermented liquid in wooden barrels. The most common varieties of grapes used include Sauvignon, Trebbiano, and Lumbrusco. The wood in which the Balsamic Vinegar is aged also adds flavor and character; the mostly commonly used types of wood include oak, cherry and chestnut. The aging process can last from 6 months to many years, depending on the manufacturer and quality of the finished product.
Balsamic Vinegar is used in cooking to marinate meats or make salad dressings like Balsamic Vinaigrette; it is also used in Italian desserts.
True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes.The resulting thick syrup, called mosto cotto in Italian, is subsequently aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of seven barrels of successively smaller sizes. The casks are made of different woods like chestnut, acacia, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash, and, in the past, juniper. True balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown in color and has a complex flavour that balances the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of wood from the casks.
Selecting and Buying
Commercial grade balsamic vinegars produced on an industrial scale.
Condimento grade products, which are often a mix of the two above.
Preparation and Use
Commercial grade balsamic vinegar is used in salad dressings, dips, marinades, reductions and sauces.
In Emilia-Romagna, tradizionale vinegar is most often served in drops on top of chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano and Mortadella as an antipasto. It is also used sparingly to enhance steaks, eggs or grilled fish, as well as on fresh fruit such as strawberries and pears and on plain Crema (custard) gelato.
Conserving and Storing
Balsamic Vinegar lasts long even after you open the bottle. Oxygen will not cause deterioration, but store it in a cool and dark place, away from heat.