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Balsamic Vinegar/Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale


Jason Perlow
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My name is Judy and I am an Acetoholic!

ok, I do live in Italy, and teach cooking so I have an excuse!

I probably have about 8 traditional balsamics in my house right now.

I adore it on vanilla ice cream, the traditional is an elixir, but not all are alike, they each have their own personalitly.

I adore the Leonardi Cherry Balsamic, only aged in cherry wood,also their Eccelence and Patriarca..

I was sucked into buying patriarca ( about 75 euro) when a past client had asked me to check into buying some for her, she had seen it online for $450!

What a discount!!! even now with the dollar Euro not doing so well, it is a real treat!

they use it a lot with any recipe with a lot of fresh herbs.. an omelet for example, and a recipe I got from the fabulous Lancelloti restaurant ( which in closed now I believe)

Thin beef slices, lightly floured, and sauteed in butter... add heavy cream, to to cover, salt to taste.. add freshly chopped tarragon, chives and marjoram.. and one or two tbs of balsamico!!!

Heaven!

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  • 10 months later...

Just got back from Boston where we bought, for the first time ever, an expensive (for us) bottle of balsamic vinegar. We tasted it in the shop first and it was heavenly. Somewhat thick, a bit on the sweet side, and complex.

Question #1: What are some great ways to enjoy this amazing food? We asked the gentleman who sold it to us (Little Italy - North End - supposedly the best Italian grocery store in Boston). He suggested on salad or on chops. He said the old men in Italy just eat a spoonful of it plain in the morning, or mixed into water.

Question #2: Why is it called balsamic? He claimed it was from one of the woods used in the casks in which it is aged. I have a vague notion it's because it's medicinal, as in a balm.

Lonnie

"It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all of the answers." --James Thurber

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Ditto on the parmesan.

Also, sprinkle on cut fresh strawberries and let sit for a while. You may add ground black pepper. Works well on a plate with a piece of parmesan.

I've also been drizzling the good stuff on thick Greek yogurt the way you would do with honey, but people probably think I'm weird for that. In the NYTimes today, Nigella Lawson suggests yogurt, honey and toasted almond "sundaes" and I may try that with balsamic.

I also put a little balsmaic in soup or anything where you might use a splash of wine or sherry, but I don't feel I need the very expensive stuff for that.

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it's wonderful on vanilla ice cream. and drizzled on steak instead of a pan sauce. also good on melon with prosciutto.

i'm pretty sure i've heard it used like a flavoring syrup - added to seltzer for a beverege.

from food reference "Balsamic means 'like balsam’ - and balsam is an aromatic resin - balsamic vinegar simply refers to the fact that it is thick (resin like) and aromatic."

from overheard in new york:

Kid #1: Paper beats rock. BAM! Your rock is blowed up!

Kid #2: "Bam" doesn't blow up, "bam" makes it spicy. Now I got a SPICY ROCK! You can't defeat that!

--6 Train

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drizzled on a tomato, onion & bleu cheese salad. Used as a dipper with nice crusty bread.

balsamic vinigrette dressing.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Real aceto balsamico tradizionale is precious stuff. Use it to enhance flavor rather than with abandon. Remember that a little goes a long way, and you'll appreciate it that much more.

I'd probably not use it in salad dressings, but in something where it helps to accentuate or contrast rather than be masked or dominant. Make sense? A goblet of strawberries with cracked black pepper is great, as is figs with a bit of honey.

Soba

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How, when and with what I plan to use it does not worry me, but how to distinguish the good stuff from the not-so-good stuff does. I have put off buying many a fancy-looking bottle until such day that I can identify a high-quality source. Fancyness of bottle is not an indication -- that much I learned from buying wine: the stuff in the bottles shaped like naked women or assault weapons is never as good as the stuff in regular shaped bottles. Nor is price an indication: just the other week, I held in my hands a $40 vial of " Balsamic Vinegar of Modena" that had, as an ingredient, caramel coloring. This, then, is the challenge: these days, every upscale market has a wall devoted to balsamic vinegars, but easily nine tenths of the nice-looking bottles contain swill.

--

ID

--

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The most important thing to consider when buying balsamic vinegar is the labeling. If it isn’t “tradizionale,” then it isn’t real balsamic vinegar. It doesn’t matter that it is from Italy, Modena, that it has a very fancy package, or that it has been aged… it just isn’t balsamic vinegar. This is not to say some of these are not good products, but they are not balsamic vinegar and they are usually made in a completely different way. Many are little more than sweetened red wine vinegar and bear little resemblance to the real thing. But some are still pretty good and chances are the flavor you think of when you think of balsamic vinegar is actually sweetened red wine vinegar.

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The book "Balsamico" by Pamela Sheldon Johns is a great treatise on the subject. Balsamico Tradizionale from Modena only comes in onetype of bottle. $40 in the U.S. would be very cheap for a Tradizionale. Expect to pay $100 on up for this in the U.S.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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its a fantastic sweet/sour contrast when you drizzle a tiny bit on the bottom of a plate when you are using another sauce, really you don't have to (shock) use it with just italian food, but its fantastic with a simple fresh tomato sauce, just adds whole new levels to most things, just play around with it, if you treat it like gold you will never find out its true potential!

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I macerate strawberries, drizzle with high-quality balsamic, and let the mixture sit for a couple of hours. Then I pour it over a small scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. Eaten on the patio in June - heaven. :biggrin: You need a very nice balsamic for this, though, to make it work.

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basically you can use it as a sauce as is for anything. steak, fish, poultry, starches like potatoes, rice, pasta, all kinds of vegetables. use it for anything. also use it for a dip for snacks. dip into it with fruits. the list goes on and on

Edited by chef koo (log)

bork bork bork

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if you treat it like gold you will never find out its true potential!

I think you're misunderstanding me. :wink:

You can do whatever you want with it, just don't use it in such a manner that you overwhelm a dish so that the dish becomes a one-note wonder. Similarly, a few drops will work wonders whereas a splash or two might be overdoing things a bit.

Balsamic vinegar is one of those things that suffered from "ingredient overkill" where a few years ago, it was balsamic this and balsamic that.

It's all about respect for the ingredient (as well as making things taste good), in my opinion.

Soba

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I have two bottles of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena certified by the Consorzio Produttori that oversees the production of these things. I am aware of at least three different vinegars priced at three different price points (with $100 being the "entry level").

This is really to be used as a condiment on grill meats, fish, and vegetable dishes (as well as reggiano, fruits and ice cream as mentioned above). A little goes an incredibly long way.

Hopefully your bottle came with an eye dropper-like attachment to control the pour. But usually the eye dropper is reserved for the highest priced balsamico, and not the entry level product.

Trebbiano is a medocre white grape for wine-making in Italy (but, of course, some producers make great wine from it). But it is pure ambrosia when used to make balsamico.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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Couldn't resist posting - less than three years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Modena just by chance during the Balsamico festival (sorry true name I do not have). We learned a lot about color and consistency, but overall what is key is taste. Their is a consortium of producers and the price is partially controlled by them, depending on years of aging, you will pay more. It is quite common to see labels saying 'aged at least x years', this is because the producers normally keep adding some of the old batches to the newer batches etc.

Anyway, we have several bottles of varied 'gold' standards, and the stuff we use for daily cooking. Luckily, we found what we thought was the best produced by someone outside of the consortium (quite the controversy there and I'm sure you can google this for more details if you care), it is the balsamico produced by Giuseppe Cattani of Modena. If you can find this for sale, buy it! I had the extreme pleasure of touring the factory, Balsamico is like wine, it is aged in wooden barrels and they get smaller and smaller as the liquid evaporates, so the really old ones are in very small wooden barrels.

My favorite use is on real tomatoes, the ones that come locally in August. I have often thought of moving somewhere that has a longer real tomato season, the things we have to give up to live in the great white north ...

Also very good on parmesan cheese as indicated by others. Notice how most people use parmesan as a condiment, I eat it as a cheese. Parmagianno Reggiano. There is also a traditional dish of beef cooked in a balsamic sauce, this is delicious, but I don't know how to make it, so I eat it on trips to Italy :wub:

Any upscale food market that is worth it's weight should let you taste some of their balsamico, just try a few different ones and you will quickly be able to seperate the good ones - find one you like, but keep looking as it is fun to have several and use them in the same meal, kind of like changing wines with each course.

I hope you find something good and start to enjoy Balsamico!

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I had the pleasure of tasting a couple of different 100 year old balsamicos in Modena. They were indeed heavenly. I tried to buy some, but they were out. :sad: The prices were much lower there than in stores here. This was still a relative bargain and one of the few I found there.

Reggio Emilia does indeed have its own balsamico and its own traditions and bottles. This is still excellent, but not up to Modena's in my (admittedly limited) experience.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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One other interesting point on balsamicos is that there are distinct nuances depending on the wood used for the barrels. For example balsamics storeed in cherry wood are particularly good with fruit such as strawberries, while those from juniper are better for pairing with meats.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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What a fun day it's been reading all these responses! I just want to thank every one of you for opening my eyes to the possibilities.

I imagine it goes well on a loved one's fingertips, too, n'est-ce pas?

Lonnie

"It is better to ask some of the questions than to know all of the answers." --James Thurber

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