Balsamic vinegar

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Balsamic vinegar
Balsamico-1.jpg
A bottle of Aceto Balsamico di Modena, aged for eight years
Type Condiment and salad dressing
Place of origin Italy
Region or state Modena and Reggio Emilia
Main ingredients White Trebbiano grape juice
Cookbook: Balsamic vinegar  Media: Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar (Italian: aceto balsamico) is the term used to indicate three different vinegars traditionally produced in Italy: Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena), "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia) and "Aceto Balsamico di Modena".

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena), is made from a reduction of cooked must and can be produced exclusively in the italian province of Modena. "Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia" (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia) is made with the same recipe, but can be produced exclusively in the italian province of Reggio Emilia. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena), differently, is a blend of grape must and wine vinegar. It can be produced exclusively in the italian provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

The names "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia) are protected by the European Union's Protected Designation of Origin, while "Aceto Balsamico di Modena" (Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) is protected by the European Union's Protected Geographical Indication .

Balsamic vinegar contains no balsam. The word balsamico (from Latin balsamum, from Greek βάλσαμον) means "balsam-like" in the sense of "restorative" or "curative".[1]

Classifications[edit]

There are three types of balsamic vinegar:

  • Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP,
  • Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP,
  • Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP.
  • They also exist many products that contains "Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP" as an ingredient, such as glazes or other condiments.
Balsamic vinegar
Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia PDO[edit]

The two Italian traditional balsamic vinegars (from Modena and Reggio Emilia) with Protected Denomination of Origin, in their legally approved shaped bottles

Only two consortia produce true traditional balsamic vinegar, Modena and neighboring Reggio Emilia. True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes.[2] The resulting thick syrup, called mosto cotto in Italian, is subsequently aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of several barrels of successively smaller sizes. The casks are made of different woods like chestnut, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash and 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.

Reggio Emilia designates the different ages of their balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia) by label colour. A red label means the vinegar has been aged for at least 12 years, a silver label that the vinegar has aged for at least 18 years, and a gold label designates that the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more.

Modena uses a different system to indicate the age of its balsamic vinegars (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena). A white-coloured cap means the vinegar has aged for at least 12 years and a gold cap bearing the designation extravecchio (extra-old) shows the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more.

Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI[edit]

As Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena dates its origin back in centuries, and share its origin with the first one until the 17° century, when for the first time the two different recipes were put in writing. From a local product, during centuries Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has become an internationally recognized italian excellence, in Europe and all over the world. Its carachteristics, the balancing between sourness and sweetness (originated from the blend between grape must and wine vinegar), and the harmony it brings to every dish has met the most different culinary cultures.

Actually, they exist two types of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI depending on their aging:

- Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI: matured for at least 60 days in wooden barrels or casks, - Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI: aged for at least 3 years in wooden barrels or barriques.

The packaging must bear the words Aceto Balsamico di Modena, together with the Protected Designation of Origin. If the product was aged for more than three years, the packaging also bears the word “Aged”. The production of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena can exclusively take place in the italian provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia, in the Emilia-Romagna region. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena) is produced from grape must that is fermented and/or cooked and/or concentrated. The grapes comes only from Lambrusco, Sangiovese, Trebbiano, Albana, Ancellotta, Fortana and Montuni vines. To the grape must are added wine vinegar, in the minimum amount of 10%, and an amount of at least 10-year-old aged vinegar. The minimum percentage of grape must is 20% of the total quantity of the product to be sent to processing. Caramel may be added for colour stability, up to a maximum of 2% of the finished product. No other substances may be added. The production of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena can exclusively take place in the italian provinces of Modena and Reggio Emilia, in the Emilia-Romagna region.

In 2009, after a long procedure, the European Commission inserted the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena) designation in the register of PGI productions.

Condimenti that used the term balsamic[edit]

Condimento (dressing) balsamic vinegars may be labeled as condimento balsamico, salsa balsamica or salsa di mosto cotto. For those products, it exists the risk to create confusion in consumers looking for the original Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI o the two different Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia PDO.

'Condimento' balsamic vinegar may be made in any of the following ways:

  • Made by producers of both Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI or Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena/Reggio Emilia PDO, by using the PGI or PDO as an ingredient. For those products the use of the PGI and PDO as an ingredient must be clearly reported, i.e "Glaze with Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP". The Consortium must approve the label and the use of the PGI's/PDO's name.
  • Made by the same method as the vinegars, but by producers located outside of Modena and Reggio Emilia provinces and not made under consortium supervision. For those products, no reference to the PDO/PGI can be made, and they cannot be use the geographical names Modena or Reggio Emilia.

As there are no official standards or labeling systems to designate condimento balsamic vinegars, it can be hard to tell their quality based on the packaging alone.[3]

Traditional processes[edit]

Barrels of balsamic vinegar aging

Traditional balsamic vinegar is produced from the juice of just-harvested white grapes (typically, Trebbiano grapes) boiled down to approximately 30% of the original volume to create a concentrate or must, which is then fermented with a slow aging process which concentrates the flavours. The flavour intensifies over the years, with the vinegar being stored in wooden casks, becoming sweet, viscous and very concentrated. During this period, a portion evaporates: it is said that this is the "angels' share", a term also used in the production of bourbon whiskey, scotch whisky, wine, and other alcoholic beverages.

None of the product may be withdrawn until the end of the minimum aging period of 12 years. At the end of the aging period (12, 18, or 25 years) a small portion is drawn from the smallest cask and each cask is then topped up with the contents of the preceding (next larger) cask. Freshly reduced cooked must is added to the largest cask and in every subsequent year the drawing and topping up process is repeated.[2] This process where the product is distributed from the oldest cask and then refilled from the next oldest vintage cask is called solera or in perpetuum.

Consortium-sealed Tradizionale balsamic vinegar 100 ml bottles can cost anywhere from US $50 to close to $1000 each, depending upon age & sales venue.

Uses[edit]

Three desserts in Modena with tradizionale balsamic vinegar: clockwise from left, zabaione, latte alla portoghese or crème caramel, and panna cotta

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. Tradizionale vinegar may be drunk from a tiny glass to conclude a meal.

Contemporary chefs use both tradizionale and condimento vinegars sparingly in simple dishes where the balsamic vinegar's complex tastes are highlighted, using it to enhance dishes like scallops or shrimp, or on simple pastas and risottos.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (11 ed.), Merriam-Webster, 2003, p. 95, ISBN 978-0-87779-809-5, retrieved 2009-10-10 
  2. ^ a b "Consorzio Produttori Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena". Archived from the original on 13 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-25. 
  3. ^ Bertolli, Paul. "Balsamic Vinegar is Italy's Famed Elixir". Taunton's Fine Cooking. Taunton Press. Retrieved 2006-08-20. 

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