WHAT’S THE STORY ON BALSAMIC VINEGAR?
Many years ago, I heard people bragging about how they spent hundreds of dollars on balsamic vinegar. I thought they were nuts.
But one day I happened to be in a cooking store when they were having a balsamic vinegar tasting. For the first time, I experienced what everyone was talking about and I bought my first bottle of expensive balsamic vinegar. The flavor was a rich complex balance of sweet and sour. The texture was smooth and the consistency like chocolate syrup.
So what do you buy? How can you tell the difference between the 4-dollar bottle and the 400-dollar bottle?
So, here is the story:
The most expensive balsamic vinegars are labeled ACETO BALSAMICO TRADIZIONALE DI MODENA or DI PEGGIO EMILIA. This label is protected by the European Union. It is produced only in Modena or Reggio Emilia and is aged a minimum of 12 years and up to 25 years. It is a thick syrup with a rich glossy complex flavor that balances sweet and sour. It is served drizzled on fruit or chunks of cheese to enhance the flavor. The type most often used in this country is a commercial grade of CONDIMENTO BALSAMICO. This can be made in different ways. Condimento can be made by producers of TRADIZIONALE balsamic with less than 12 years aging, made by the same method as TRADIZIONALE but outside Modena or Reggio Emilia; or it can be made of wine vinegar with additives to artificially mimic the sweetness and thickness of the expensive stuff.
So what to buy?
I look for products that have the IGP label (check out the photos.) IGP is an acronym for INDICAZIONE GEOGRAFICA PROTETTA (Protected Geographical Indicator). It identifies a product as originating from a specific region and ensures that the product is authentic and of the highest quality. I have two different types of balsamic vinegar that I use all the time. They both have IGP labels. One is from Costco and I use it in salad dressings, sauces and soups.
The second is much more expensive and is actually the same brand I purchased many years ago. The store stopped selling it but I found it on Amazon. It is thicker and more like syrup. This is what I drizzle on the Prosciutto and Mango. It enhances everything you use it on. It’s expensive but you use it very sparingly. The bottle lasts me more than a year. (I am posting a photo of the actual bottle, so you can see the IGP label and the brand I use. Let me know if you find another brand that you think is great and I will buy it.)
Don’t waste a drop!