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Balsamic Vinegar has been traditionally produced in Modena and Reggio which are provinces in Italy. The success of Balsamic vinegar began during the Renaissance. It is a by product of the wine making process. The final product is a dark, glossy brown, syrupy, sweet and sour flavoured thick liquid. The grapes used are Trebbiano, Lambrusco and Spergola.
The grapes are picked at the end of autumn when the sugar/ acidity level is the highest. The grapes are pressed and the "must" is then filtered and decanted. The remaining clean liquid is boiled in a large uncovered copper cauldron. The remaining syrup is concentrated in sugar. These syrups are cooled in wooden tubs and then aged in wooden barrels. Ageing can vary from 12- 25 years.
How to select
Balsamic Vinegar has to age for minimum 12 years to be called an original balsamic vinegar. It comes mainly from "modena" or "reggio".The labels given are as follows : Pink (12 years), Silver (medium aged) and Gold (fully aged, atleast 25 yrs). Check for these labels before purchasing. Traditional balsamic vinegar is sold in numbered bottles shaped like upside down tulips.
The best balsamic vinegar has only one ingredient- grapes. Lesser known ones will have brown sugar or caramel added to mimic the flavour of the better ones.
· Balsamic Vinegar made in the reggio region is used on accompaniments to main courses. A recipe called "Erbazone"- puff pastry layered with a mixture of spinach, onions and aromatic herbs is served drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
· It is an excellent accompaniment to reggio cheese.
· A traditional recipe called Gelato Matildico is ice cream topped with "Gold" balsamic vinegar.
· Modena Balsamic vinegar is served drizzled on boiled meats, various types of pasta and chilled salads.
· Fruits go well with Balsamic vinegar. Place strawberries, vinegar and powdered sugar in different bowls. Let each guest dip a strawberry into balsamic vinegar and then into powdered sugar.
How to store
Store in a cool dry place away from humidity. Since balsamic vinegar is aged, it can be stored for a long time.
It has various curative properties and also has an age old reputation as a miracle cure, good for everything from sore throats to labour pains.