The good Balsamic Vinegar comes from Modena (home of Ferrari, Maserati, and Lamborghini), where they have been making it for a thousand years. I have some days when I hunger for some Balsamic.
It's called "balsamic" because it was thought to be a good balsam, or balm, for pain and disease. Our North American Balsam Fir was thought to be good for diseases too, hence its name. The Romans viewed vinegar as a balm and a medicine - hence the Roman soldier kindly offering Jesus vinegar on the cross.
They make it from boiled-down Trebbiano grape juice. Balsamic Vinegar is not a wine vinegar.
The aging process seems to be key. As the volume shrinks over time and the vinegar becomes more syrupy, it is moved into smaller and smaller wood casks made of different woods until ready. Juniper is the final cask. 15 and 25 year-old Italian Balsamic Vinegars are readily available, and there are 100 year-old ones. The 15 year-old one in the photo is $70/bottle. Unlike a bottle of wine of that price, however, you only have to use a few drops at a time.
Northern Italians would never touch our supermarket stuff, nor would any really good American restaurant. However, the available quality is getting better and better.
The old story Marcella Hazan relates is about the old Northern Italian guy who ran down to the cellar when the Americans began bombing. Then he remembered, and ran up to the room where his precious small casks of very old Balsamic were stored and rushed them down to the cellar. Then he realized that he had forgotten one more thing: His wife.
Ever tried a good Balsamic on strawberries? It's a classic Italian dessert. It's equally good on fresh fig halves with a touch of honey or sugar. Just make sure you use the good stuff.
Posted by Bird Dog in Food and Drink, Our Essays at 14:42
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
I ran across this post on a blog called Maggie's Farm. I found it so interesting I'm copying it here. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.