Italia in a Flash: Balsamic Vinegar

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There are vinegars you and I know by name, and balsamic vinegar is probably one of them. Yet the great details, very specific preparation, and years involved in producing a truly amazing traditional balsamic is something you might not be as familiar with. So here in a flash, is your cheat sheet on everything balsamic.

There are three types of balsamic vinegar:
  • Authentic traditional artisan balsamic vinegar, the only kind that may legally be described as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale by the consortium, which mandates strict standards, is only produced in the regions of Modena and Reggio Emilia. The juice from only Trebbiano or Lambrusco grapes must be aged in wooden barrels for 12 to 18 years to develop this balsamic’s unique flavor.
  • Condimento grade products, which are often a mix of the Tradizionale and Commercial grade is made and aged in the traditional way in Modena or Reggio Emilia, aged fewer than 12 years and without consortium supervision.
  • Commercial balsamic vinegars produced on a large scale – these products are made of wine vinegar with the addition of coloring, caramel, and sometimes thickeners.
The suggested way to use each type of balsamic:
  • Drizzle Tradizionale
  • Spoon Condimento
  • Pour Commercial
Great ways to enjoy balsamic vinegar:
  • Tradizionale balsamic vinegar is best used after the cooking is finished, and in more mild dishes as it will shine on its own. Use it to flavor meat like chicken, steak, fish, or veal. It’s great with fruit and cheese combinations; such as strawberries, peaches, and pears, along with ricotta or mozzarella cheese. It may be enjoyed by itself in small amounts.
  • Condimento grade balsamic is more viscous and versatile. Use it in sauces (especially at the end of cooking), in risotto, and pasta dishes.
  • Commercial balsamic is good for salad dressings, marinades, and dipping sauces for vegetables and bread.
How to store balsamic vinegar:
Balsamic vinegar can be stored indefinitely in a closed container at room temperature. Although the color may darken slightly and solids may precipitate out, this is normal.