Balsamic Vinegar 101
There are an array of vinegars you can find in a kitchen pantry, from white wine to apple cider (and everything in between). However, we consider balsamic the holy grail of all vinegars. The rich, slightly sweet flavor of balsamic vinegar readily lends itself to salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. A simple dash can also add flavor to a soup or stew. It can bring out the sweetness of fresh fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, and peaches. The cooking possibilities are endless!
How is balsamic vinegar different from the others? True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of syrup from sweet wine grapes, called mosto cotto in Italian, which is subsequently aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of seven barrels of successively smaller sizes. The casks are made of different woods like chestnut, acacia, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash and juniper. As opposed to wine, balsamic vinegars are aged in the attics in Modena, Italy where they benefit from the extreme heat of summer and the extreme cold in winter. True balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown or light caramel in color and has a complex flavor that balances the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of wood from the casks.
Balsamic vinegar’s tangy and sweet properties make it an adaptable ingredient, but it is also a nutritional powerhouse. The grapes used to make balsamic vinegar possess several nutritional advantages. Balsamic vinegar contains electrolytes including calcium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. The most significant nutritional bonus of balsamic vinegar are flavonoids, a diverse group of phytonutrients contained in grapes. Flavonoids are antioxidants which help protect heart and brain health and serve to rid the body of cell-damaging free radicals. Consuming balsamic vinegar has also been correlated with improved blood sugar control. Studies conducted on rats have demonstrated an association of vinegar intake with the lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure.
Balsamic Vinegar Varieties
All vinegar production begins with the fermentation of grapes. Traditional balsamic vinegars come from two specific regions in Italy: Reggio Emilia and Modena.
Balsamic Basic Nutrients
Balsamic vinegar is a complimentary condiment for many foods, lending big flavors but few calories. A tablespoon of our balsamic vinegars contains no more than 40 calories and zero grams of fat and protein. Each of our balsamics include the ingredients: grape must, wine vinegar, natural flavors, and naturally occurring sulfites.
The line of balsamic vinegar we carry in our stores are comprised of over 97% cooked barrel (traditional batteria) aged grape must. This equates to a higher amount of grape solids in our product. These solids (when measured in total) also include the natural fruit sugar which originates solely from grapes. While the total solids in our products equate to more carbs, the grape solids (when measured in isolation without their natural sugar included) correspond to a high concentration of natural phenols in our products. There is never any sugar added to any of our products, with the exception of the pure Vermont maple syrup added to the Maple Balsamic.
Cooking With Balsamic
Salad dressing may top the list of most common uses of balsamic vinegar. However, balsamic vinegar’s slightly acidic fruit flavor lends itself well to savory marinades and sauces. Sprinkle balsamic on fresh fruits such as strawberries and peaches for a touch of tartness. Balsamic will reduce to a syrup-like texture when heated in a pan and could add a surprising element to a sweet dish.
Try some of our favorite balsamic vinegar recipes:
Storing Balsamic Vinegar
Be sure to store balsamic vinegar in a cool, dark place away from heat, such as in the cupboard or pantry. It doesn't need to be refrigerated. It won't oxidize once opened and will keep indefinitely. You don't have to worry if you see some sediment in the bottom of the bottle. That is a natural by-product of the aging process and it isn't harmful.