Holiday Gift of Balsamic Vinegar and cruet are Treasured by Chefs.
Balsamic vinegar the gourmet treasure.
The splendid seasoning attributes of Italian balsamic vinegar were little known 20 years ago outside its native province of Emilia Romagna. Now you’ll find it sprinkled on everything from abalone to albacore tuna, but chefs know to not overdo it: a little balsamic greatly enhances a dish, while too much can overwhelm it. Balsamic derives its name from the plant resin “balsam”, a medicinal balm sometimes used on the skin.
If you are wondering where balsamic vinegar does best, remember it will do well wherever a little sweetness would be welcome.
It is highly prized by master cooks for adding depth of taste to fish, poultry and grilled vegetables. It might be drizzled over onions or tomatoes, or lightly introduced to tomato and mozzarella insalata caprese. The flavors of strawberries and heirloom tomatoes will be greatly enhanced by what has been described as balsamic’s dense and aromatic taste. In Italy, pears sprinkled with parmesan and the best balsamic traditionally end a fine meal.
Combine balsamic with extra virgin olive oil in vinaigrette dressing and use with lobster and scallops, or globe artichokes and asparagus. Choose winter vegetables such as squash, sweet potatoes, carrots and turnips, or coldweather greens like Belgian endive, frisee, or radicchio, and drizzle with a delightful nut oil and balsamic dressing for a delectable combination.
All balsamic is not created equal. Only a tiny proportion – less than 3,000 gallons of the genuine Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale – is produced each year, all made near Bologna, in the historic town of Modena or in nearby Reggio Emilia. click here for Bread dipping gifts.
Look for “tradizionale” on the label, a guarantee that traditional methods were used during production in one of these locations. The process of transforming the Trebbiano grape into genuine traditizionale balsamic begins as the juice, or “must,” of the grape is boiled down by more than half to a dark, sugar-laden syrup which will impart the distinctive sweetness to the finished product. The syrup ferments in the open air in oak casks then is transferred to ever-smaller casks of various woods for a long evaporation and aging process, finally resting in a cask of juniper. From this meticulous process emerges the unique artisan balsamic vinegar which matches measure for measure the prices of the finest Pinot Noir or Bordeaux wines. More oil and vinegar recipes.
Fine balsamic, aged 25 years or more, can even be sipped from a glass like Port. It will not deteriorate after opening, oxygen being part of the aging process, but you should never expose it to heat. Treasure your bottle as the finest of condiments, and share it with deserving family and friends on the most special of occasions.
Other more modest versions of balsamic vinegar, priced at $20 and up are also made in Modena and elsewhere, and are invaluable as marinades or sauce and dressing flavoring. They can even be simmered ever so briefly with no damage to their character. Just remember there are very poor balsamics, as well, and you will get what you pay for.