About Balsamic Vinegar
At Olive Oil Divine, we offer Condimento Balsamico's. We take great pride that our Balsamic is 100% all natural, DO NOT have added sugar nor thickening agents, and are produced using the "Solera Method" originating in Modena, Italy.
The first historical reference to balsamic vinegar dates back nearly a thousand years ago, to 1046, when a bottle of balsamic vinegar was reportedly given to Emperor Enrico III of Franconia, Italy, as a gift. These days balsamic vinegar is quite readily available and while it is no longer used for medicinal purposes, it is quite a valuable commodity to cooks everywhere.
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Also known as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, is produced in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, made from cooked grape must and aged anywhere from 9 to 12 years in aging barrels. Depending on which wood the barrels are made from, the vinegar will then take on those flavors, such as oak or chestnut. Yearly, the vinegar is bottled from the smallest barrel in the batch. Each cask is then topped up with vinegar from the next cask up, with the largest getting filled with the latest yield. The longer the vinegar ages, the thicker it gets and the more concentrated it becomes.
A panel of five judges rates the vinegar, giving it grades from fine (12-year vintage) to old (15-20 year vintage) or extra old (20-25 year vintage). The color of traditional balsamic vinegar ranges from a glossy yellow/brown to brown/black during aging with the texture of syrup. Its taste, typically slightly tart, is rich and sweet with hints of molasses, cherry, prune, fig and chocolate.
What are the best uses for Traditional Balsamic Vinegar? Drizzle it over grilled meats and seafood or try a few drops on vanilla ice cream or berries. Rarely use it as a cooking ingredient as heat destroys its unique aroma. Another wonderful characteristic of traditional balsamic is that as long as it is stored in a dark, cool space and kept away from other particularly strong food items, it will keep indefinitely.
Condimento Balsamico is made with the same grape must and in the same kind of barrels as is Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. It isn't in the same classification in large because it either didn't meet the standard for maturity or because it wasn't appropriately supervised. Condimento Balsamico may be younger or older depending on whoever is producing it. Due to the fact that it does not go through the same rigorous scrutiny as TBV, it is generally less expensive. Producers also have been known to add a bit of wine vinegar to younger batches to brighten the acidity. These Balsamics are usually aged five to seven years and generally are excellent balsamic vinegars that are generally much less expensive than TBV. Regarding color and texture, CB is usually thicker and its color is deeper and flavor richer the older it is. How do you recognize Condimento Balsamico? It won't taste as woody as TBV but it will feature a pleasing mix of acidity and sweetness to go along with cherry, leathery flavors. It should also only contain grape must, although some may have a bit of wine vinegar mixed in to combat the acidity.
The first balsamic vinegars didn't make their way to the United States until 1977 and they proved to be quite popular, so much so that it was difficult to keep up with demand.
That demand gave way to an increase in imitation products, which led to the creation of a protected designation for genuine traditional balsamic vinegar. Introduced by the European Union in 2009, the IGP designation means that the product is made from Modena grape varieties, which include Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana, Lambrusco, Montuni, Sangiovese and Trebbiano). The grapes must be processed in Modena but can actually come from anywhere. Cooked in pressurized vats and ages for a minimum of two months in wooden barrels, the vinegar is not fermented. However, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP must contain wine vinegar so that its acidity is at least six percent and can include up to 50 percent wine vinegar, both of which are aged. Caramel may be added to thicken it, although its appearance can vary greatly. If the vinegar has been in barrels for more than three years, it can also carry the word "aged." The higher acidity levels are obvious in the taste, making it a bit sweeter than standard vinegar. The darker the vinegar the sweeter it is.
What are the best uses for Balsamic Vinegar of Modena? This is the best vinegar for salad dressings and dips and is also great in soups. It is also perfectly fine to cook with as it can reduce down.
While there are a number of "balsamic" vinegars available, they are not the genuine article. In fact, the majority of these consist simply of white, wine or cider vinegar, sweetener and food coloring. Mass produced, they can appear to have the same flavor of balsamic but are significantly less expensive. Because balsamic vinegar is so popular, there are a number of products that are a by-product of it, such as balsamic ketchup, balsamic glaze, balsamic syrup, flavored balsamic, white balsamic, saba and balsamic pearls.