madonna del piatto

Italian family cooking

balsamic vinegar

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aged balsamic vinegar

mellow, thick, intense, truly aged balsamic vinegar

ACETO BALSAMICO di MODENA. We are so lucky in modern times. Foods and flavors that in the past were only for king and princes, are now available to (almost) any commoner who likes to enjoy life. As early as 1046, future emperor Henry III writes to Marquis Boniface, father of Mathilde of Canossa to ask a gift of of a bottle of ‘the old vinegar made to smell most beautiful and sweet’.  Most likely this was  the ancestor of balsamic vinegar. By the end of the XVI century, the Dukes of Ferrara and Modena graced their tables and those of their important friends with this aromatic (= balsamico) elixir.

Modern balsamic vinegar is still made like centuries ago, using cooked grape must in a battery of seven barrels of successively smaller sizes each made of different woods. The vinegar is aged for a minimum of 12 years and sold in round 10o ml bottles labelled as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. The traditional balsamic is certified  by the consortium of producers of Modena or of Reggio Emilia.

Why it’s so special? It’s an artisanal product, made in small amounts over a long time, the barrels  are used by a producer for generations. The slow fermentation, the balance of  grape varieties, the aging in a sequence of  different woods imparts a complex aromatic flavor by which every traditional balsamic vinegar is unique and splendid. It is something to be used sparingly, by the drop and uncooked. It’s expensive, starting at 60 Euro for a 12 years old.

Only a traditional can be considered a true balsamic, but other products labelled as balsamic vinegars or balsamic condiments are easier on the budget and practical for use in larger amounts. The cheapest stuff is red wine vinegar sweetened with caramel and added with artificial flavors, please ignore.

Some uncertified balsamic it’s made like the traditional but is less aged and therefore less expensive, 25- 30 Euro a bottle. You need to buy it from a reputable dealer. It is delicious with aged cheese, roast red meat and used in dressing of special salads together with good extra virgin olive oil.

An everyday balsamic  should be aged 3 or 4 years and sweetened with cooked grape must. It is acceptable for sauces, deglazing and reductions. It’s easy, it’s pleasant, but remember, it’s not the real thing.

Where to find good balsamic vinegar in the Assisi area:
Terra Umbra Antica, Via Patrono d’Italia 10/a, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi.

Author: madonnadelpiatto

Former scientist, I now run B&B and cooking school Alla Madonna del Piatto in Assisi, Umbria, central Italy, together with my husband Ruurd, daughter Tea and truffle dog Google. We love good food and wine, travel, beautiful handicrafts like textiles and pottery. We feel fortunate to be able to share our magical mountain with many friends from all over the world.

6 thoughts on “balsamic vinegar

  1. …it’s time for you to write a book ( if you don’t have the skeleton of one already lurking somewhere on that computer of yours…..)

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  2. Pingback: ravioli alle pere e aceto balsamico « madonna del piatto

  3. Letizia, I think that you introduced me to the miracle of aceto balsamico — before that, I had had no idea that vinegar could be anything but the extremely sour substance used in making pickles!

    When I’m in the Reggio Emilia region in June, I’m seriously thinking of trying to find a balsamic tour, to see how the product is made.

    And Diana is right, you definitely have a book in you! It will be such fun to read!

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  4. Sandra, nowadays I use regular vinegar only to clean water stains!

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  5. Pingback: insalata tiepida di ceci e rucola « madonna del piatto

  6. Pingback: peperoni all’aceto balsamico « madonna del piatto

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