Balsamic vinegar might be the single best kept secret in a person’s pantry. With the perfect balance of sweet and rich flavors, the centuries old recipe is extremely versatile and can be used on salads, sauces, and marinades or drizzled over steaks, strawberries, and even ice-cream!
Where Balsamic Vinegar Started
Originating in the Modena and Reggio Emilia regions of Northern Italy, Traditional Balsamic dates back to the Middle ages. First documented in a poem written in 1046, today’s traditional balsamic vinegar is a highly valued, sought after product known by few but loved by all who have had the opportunity to taste it.
Real Balsamic vinegar has played a major role since its creation. Even more so than today, aged balsamic vinegar was the perfect gift. From royalty gratitude to family heirlooms, balsamic vinegar was once included even in wedding dowries. Today, aged balsamic is still a very sought after and appreciated gift that every foodie and chef should receive and cherish in their pantry.
Today, Balsamic Vinegar is much more widely available however not all balsamic vinegars are created equally or even used for the same purposes. Just as in the past, balsamic vinegar must still be produced in Modena in order to be considered a true balsamic vinegar. Even if it is produced elsewhere, no one has the experience in creating this amazing product quite like the families in Modena.
Different types of Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar- Most balsamic vinegar in the US is not even balsamic vinegar. Years ago, wine vinegar was imported from Italy and labeled as balsamic vinegar to be marketed in America. This is the balsamic vinegar widely available at most supermarkets and even convenient stores! This balsamic vinegar is typically made up of wine vinegar, some balsamic vinegar, and lots of fillers and preservatives. This balsamic is usually much more acidic and bitter with very little to no viscosity.
Balsamic Vinegar Glaze- This type of balsamic vinegar is an attempt to imitate real balsamic vinegar. It is often very sweet due to its ingredients of wine vinegar, sugar, caramels, flavorings, and preservatives. This balsamic is very thick (sometimes too thick) and although it a treat and great addition to gourmet dishes, it is not the healthiest nor the real deal.
Aged Balsamic Vinegar- This is the type of balsamic vinegar you always want to keep in your pantry. Aged balsamic vinegar is made from 100% grape must. Aging in a succession of wooden barrels, the grape must evaporates and thickens. During this time the grape must also begins to take on its deep flavor and sweet notes from the barrels. Most people equate the longer the aging process the better the product but this is not the case at all! It is possible (and not uncommon) that you can find a producer that makes an amazing 18 year aged balsamic that is better than any 25 year aged balsamic and you can find a fantastic 50 year aged balsamic and a not so good 50 year aged balsamic. This all comes down to personal preference and the quality of the balsamic producer.