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Isn’t it amazing how a few heavenly drops of authentic balsamic vinegar can completely transform a dish? But not all balsamic vinegars are created equally. Read on to learn about the complex varieties available and how best to use each.
History shows that balsamic vinegar originated in Modena, perhaps as early as 1,000AD, and was used for everything from an effective digestive aid to a powerful disinfectant. Interesting to note: There is evidence that shows that as early as the 1500’s, small casks of balsamic vinegar were given as wedding gifts to brides in Modena, and this tradition still holds true today.
Originally, growers cooked grapes until their sugar began to caramelize and then left them to rest over the cold, winter season to ferment. The liquid was then transferred to wooden casks and the combination of acidity, alcohol and oxygen worked their magic.
Today, there are two types of Italian balsamic vinegars available:
1. Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena)
- Crafted from one ingredient: a reduction of grape must, or mosto d’uva cotto, using centuries-old techniques.
- Aged for a minimum of 12 years in wooden barrels.
- Takes on hints of ash, chestnut, juniper, oak, mulberry or cherry throughout the aging process.
- Marked with a distinctive wax seal and housed in a bulb-shaped bottle.
TIP: Drizzle traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP over subtle dishes, like risotto or fresh berries.
2. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP (Aceto Balsamico di Modena)
- Produced during a single-barrel cooking process.
- Requires a much shorter maturation period, usually around 2 months
- It often contains a combination of grape must and wine vinegar.
TIP: Use Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP every day as a salad dressing with Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a sprinkling of salt.
You will find other varieties of balsamic vinegar when you shop, but if you stay true to authentic, Italian products, your family and guests will be guaranteed an experience they will always cherish.