Thursday, November 16, 2006

A taste made in heaven – Balsamic Vinegar from Modena

There’s the Balsamic vinegar that you buy from Woollies (at $5 a bottle)...then there’s the real stuff. I’d come ½ way around the world, to Modena, in search of the real stuff.

I’m taking about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. It’s a taste that, quite simply, is divine !!

According to the website, Balsamic Vinegar is “an aged reduction of white sweet grapes (Trebbiano for red and Spergola for white sauvignon) that are boiled to a syrup. The grapes are cooked very slowly in copper cauldrons over an open flame until the water content is reduced by over 50%. The resulting "must" is placed into wooden barrels and an older balsamic vinegar is added to assist in the acetification. Each year the vinegar is transferred to different wood barrels so that the vinegar can obtain some of the flavors of the different woods. The only approved woods are oak, cherry, chestnut, mulberry, a cacia, juniper, and ash. The age of the vinegar is divided into young – from 3 to 5 years maturation; middle aged 6 to 12 years and the highly prized very old which is at least 12 years and up to 150 years old.

The casks that the vinegar is stored in, are left in attics to experience all extremes of temperatures throughout the years.

I chatted to some of the producers & they explained to me the ground rules. As with all protected foods & wine of Italy, they must follow strict guidelines as to their production methods. In the case of the vinegar:

To be called “tradizionale”, it must be aged at least 12 yrs;

To be called “stravecchio” (extra old), it must be aged at least 25 yrs,

The vinegar will be bottled in 100ml bottles with either a red or gold top. The gold top signifies that it’s been aged at least 25 yrs, and

Producers cannot state exactly how long their vinegars have aged, they can only state that it’s “tradizonale” or “tradizonale” and “stravecchio” – if you see a bottled labelled 100 yr old’s bullsh** (according to the producers !!).

Here are some guidelines for when you do decide to take the plunge & buy a bottle of the real stuff:

The younger the vinegar is, the cheaper it will cost;

The younger the PRODUCER is the cheaper it will cost;

Special, limited & numbered production runs will push up the price of a bottle

So what do you do with the real stuff, I hear you ask ??

Well...I’ve put drop of vinegar over chunks of Parmiggiano; I’ve served drops of it over polenta; I’ve served drops of it over vanilla ice-cream or fresh strawberries. Yes…it’s always served in drops…never poured. Yes…it tastes great with strawberries & over ice-cream. Trust me !! much does one pay for a bottle of the real stuff ?? Let’s just say the bottle I bought was under 100 Euros. Trust is a taste worth every dollar.

Food Experiences

While staying in Modena, the restaurant I kept frequenting was one right next door to the hotel. I had lovely meals there every night including:

Gnocchi with a Gorgonzola sauce
Tortellini in a chicken broth
Pork steak served with a lemon sauce
Veal steak served with a Balsamic Vinegar sauce

All very yum !!

Well...that’s the Modena part of the shopping trip over. The next posting will be what happens when I stay with the relatives for just over a week. See if I get on with the relatives.

Until the next posting...take care.



Post a Comment

<< Home