Balsamic is something of a recent phenomenon in cookery. While Italians have been enjoying its robust flavour for centuries, it has taken a little longer for it to gain speed across the water in the US and UK. The flavour lends itself to being used on salads as a dressing, in marinades and sauces, even in stews. The complexity of its sweetness and richness run circles around its cousin, red wine vinegar.
Balsamic vinegar can be traced back as far as 900 years ago, where vintners in the Modena region of Italy were making it to take as a tonic. It was also given to important people as a favour.
Although balsamic vinegar is called a wine vinegar, technically it isn’t. It is still made from grapes, but these grapes have not been fermented into wine. The sweet white Trebbiano grapes are pressed into a dark syrup, then aged under very careful conditions. It is a rare process not found in other tabletop vinegars like white and red wine vinegar. The makers pour the syrup into wooden kegs and the long process begins. The ageing process is a startling twelve years, waiting in the oak kegs until it is aged to perfection. Over the years, the syrup is moved between kegs made of different kinds of wood, including ash, chestnut, juniper and mulberry. After the switching process, the balsamic vinegar is then ready for sale.
The long wait
Twelve years might seem like a long time, but some vinegars have been aged for 100 years – so waiting twelve doesn’t seem so long if you consider that waiting process. The longer it ages, the more it thickens and the more the flavour concentrates. The intensity of the texture and flavour is the reason that true Italian balsamic vinegar is so expensive.
The good thing is, after the longest wait for the perfect balsamic vinegar, it has many unique uses. As well as a sauce ingredient or a dressing, balsamic vinegar can be used in summery, fruity recipes https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jul/16/nigel-slater-summer-fruit-and-dairy-recipes. Whether it’s shop-bought or the 100-year-old Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, this vinegar is incredibly versatile. That’s why restaurants like this Italian Restaurant Dublin https://www.forno500.ie/ use it in so many of their recipes.
The richness and uniqueness of balsamic vinegar is bound to bring more flavour to your summer.