Black Gold Balsamic Vinegar

By: The Olive Trail  08/05/2013
Keywords: Black Gold Aged Balsamic Vinegar

BLACK GOLD BALSAMIC VINEGARS There are few foods I can think of that are not enhanced by a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar. Michael North, epicure of The Olive Trail will use it in many dishes. For example it's delicious with unadorned prime cuts of beef, fish, veal or poultry, as well as calves liver, pigeon and quail. Because of its sweet-sour nature, it also offsets salads of bitter leaves such as dandelion and rocket. Plus, it's delicious drizzled over heady, ripe strawberries, peaches and blood oranges just before serving. The Italian word "balsamico" comes from balm, meaning protective, soothing and calm. It takes just three ingredients to make balsamic - cooked grapes, wooden barrels and, most important of all, time. Unlike wine vinegar, balsamic begins its life not as wine but as a cooked grape musk called mosto cotto. The grape most commonly used is called trebbiano, a variety that grows in Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy. It makes poor-quality wine - thin and neutral - but it ages well, absorbing the flavours and aromas of the barrels it is placed in. Like all good things, balsamic follows the seasons. In the autumn the grapes are picked then crushed (traditionally stomped upon) and strained. The cooked grape musk is reduced by half, allowing its sugar content to double and then placed in the first of a series of wooden casks where the long process of ageing beings. Balsamic vinegar was first introduced to the mass market in the late 1970s. Prior to that, it was known only by those who visited Emilia-Romagna, where it was a closely guarded secret, usually made at home for family and friends. But the popularity of balsamic led to the production of quickly processed vinegars, that are little more than grape juice, diluted with stronger vinegar then darkened and sweetened with caramel colouring. This is often the vinegar we are sold in supermarkets today, so you must be very careful when reading the label. In recent years, in order to protect the reputation and authenticity of balsamic, councils have been formed in Modena and Reggio Emilia to establish standards that govern all aspects of how the vinegar is made - covering everything from grape varieties to fermentation and ageing. In order to qualify as the standard-bearing balsamic "aceto balsamico tradizionale" the vinegar must be aged for a minimum of 12 years and be approved by a board of master tasters. Strict standards also apply to the packaging, the shape of the bottles and even their labels. The word "tradizionale" is the key thing to look for - this means it is in a class by itself. More recently, Italian producers have banded together to create a vinegar called "Consorzio, produttion condimento allimentare balsamico". This is still made in accordance with traditional methods, but sold prior to its full 12-year maturation. This allows them to release a product of excellent standards, but at a slightly lower price. The Olive Trail

Keywords: Black Gold Aged Balsamic Vinegar

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