Balsamic Vinegar is a popular salad dressing together with oil. However, it is far removed from the traditional product that had been used in the middle ages. Also known as Aceto Balsamico di Modena, the modern day condiment is fairly available and available easily. The word Balsamic means balsam like although it would be a mistake to take it literally and picture a physical similarity to balsam. The name is suggestive of the curative properties and hence named as balsamic vinegar.
Origin of Balsamic Vinegar
The balsamic vinegar evolved during the middle ages and was not really vinegar in the strict sense of the term. On the contrary, it was formulated by reduction of the Trebbiano grape juice which had been cooked over fire. It gained in popularity with the House of Este recommending it strongly during the period of renaissance.
Kinds of Balsamic Vinegar
Three different types of balsamic vinegar are in vogue now and may be classified as:-
• Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale- This particular form of balsamic vinegar is considered to be the traditional and authentic form of the age old product and is produced only in Reggio Emilia and its neighboring locality of Modena. The reduction of juices from the choicest of grapes from Trebbiano and Lambrusco . The end mixture is then carefully stored away in a series of barrels for over a period of twelve years. The caskets or barrels used for storing the wine are selected according to their size which needs to be smaller than the last one used. The final balsamic vinegar attains a rich brown color and tastes both sweet and sour richly reminiscent of the grapes. The flavor of the wood from the storage barrels get mingled within the condiment as well. Both the houses producing the traditional vinegar have slightly different methods for depicting the aging process. While Reggio Emilia uses labels in varied colors, the Modena balsamic vinegar has a differently colored cap for products which have been aged differently.
• Commercial Balsamic Vinegar- The commercially available balsamic vinegar does not usually have any label or seal of approval proving its authenticity. Most of them are produced using the same procedure although the ageing process is not adhered to diligently. Balsamic vinegar producers outside of the provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia also produce and sell the product commercially, most of which finds its way into the kitchens of the general public.
• Balsamic Vinegar-Modena- This particular type is produced in Modena but varies greatly from the traditional condiment . Addition of colors, thickening agents and even caramel are encouraged to enhance the visual appeal of balsamic vinegar while the all important ageing process is foregone completely. This helps in mass production and brisk selling of the most easily available type of commercial balsamic vinegar.
Uses of Balsamic Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar is used as:
• Sauces, salad dressings, marinades & a variety of dips.
• Traditionally served as an antipasto in Italy.
• To enhance the flavors of shrimps, scallops and fishes as well as fruits and desserts.
• Drunk in isolation after a meal as a digestive aid.
Trivia : Balsamic Vinegar
Asparagus salad with sweet balsamic vinegar dressing is considered to be an aphrodisiac and is in high demand during Valentine’s Day.