Sunday, October 4, 2009

Balsamic Vinegar

True Balsamic vinegar is an artisan product from Modena, in Emilia Romagna, Italy, and is made with grape must (juice) that is simmered to make a concentrate, allowed to ferment, then, for a minimum of 12 years, matured in barrels of progressively decreasing size, made from different woods in order to impart different flavours. The result is dark, rich and syrupy and to be used very sparingly.

The real thing will be marked with 'tradizionale' and/or DOC and will be expensive. You can also buy the more afforable, industrially made 'aceto balsamico di Modena', which uses vinegar as well as grape must; as it's not aged for so long, the flavours won't be as strong.

Availibility

All year round.

Choose the best

For the real deal, always look for the trems tradizionale/DOC or aceto balsamico di Modena. Very cheap balsamic vinegars are just masquerading as either of the above and will have been coloured and flavoured with caramel - although they're fine for salad dressings and glazes, they won't have the authentic intensity of flavour.

Store it

In a cool, dark cupboard.

Cook it

Add just a few drops (connoisseurs use a pipette) of tradizionale to ripe strawberries, slices of well-aged parmesan cheese or very good quality vanilla ice cream. Brush aceto balsamico di Modena over roasting chicken or duck breasts, shake some over grilled tuna steaks, drizzle over tomato salads or stir a little into a roast vegetable pasta sauce.

Can't find it

Try sherry vinegar or wine vinegar.

Health Benefits

  • Balsamic has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties which make it an effective remedy for treating infections and wounds.
  • Folk healers used balsamic to cure body pain and as energizer.
  • Balsamic vinegar contains powerful antioxidant called polyphenols which fight cell damage and boost our immune system.
  • The antioxidant in balsamic have also the potential to protect against heart disease, cancer, and other inflammatory conditions.
  • Balsamic can help boost the activity of the digestive enzyme pepsin thus improving metabolism.
  • Balsamic may help control diabetes. Study suggests that by adding as little as five teaspoons of the vinegar with a meal can improve insulin sensitivity. Better insulin sensitivity means better diabetes control and lowered risk of dangerous complications.
  • Balsamic can reduce cholesterol level.
  • Balsamic antioxidant may slow the aging process.
  • Balsamic reduces the frequency of headaches.
  • Balsamic contains important minerals that can strengthen the bones.
  • Balsamic can help prevent anemia and fatigue.
  • Balsamic can help suppress appetite and therefore an aid in controlling weight.
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