Inspired by Balsamico!

The “Aceto Balsamico” (balsamic vinegar) is a particular dressing that italians either love or hate.

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It has a very strong flavour – you shouldn’t use more than one or two drops on your meal or it will cover everything up -, and an old and fascinating history.

The original “Tradizionale balsamico di Modena” is a high-costly product, made from cooked grape must, aged at least 12 years, and is protected under the European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system. How to describe its flavour? You should really taste it to understand. And, once done, you will surely acknowledge the difference between what they sell in common shops – and its often ‘basic’ red vinegar mixed with caramel – and this little treasure.

There is, luckily, a half-way: a compote of ordinary balsamic vinegar with the addition of reduced grape juice in varying proportions, without any aging, or cooked wine aged less than the prescribed 12 years. Just avoid the caramel.

Aceto Balsamico comes from Emilia Romagna, and is really ancient: the legend wants it to be produced since the 12th century, but some say that their inspiration comes directly from… Egypt! As strange as it may sound, it is not that unbelievable. The roots of Balsamic Vinegar were found in the cooked must and an Egyptian funerary painting demonstrates that the production of the first sweetener used in the Mediterranean area dates back to long time ago, at least to 1000 B.C. Even for the cooked must the Roman era was a great one and there was a specific verb referring to this action called defrutare. Strong flavours and long time fermentation makes it actually a pretty good food-preserver. When there’s no fridge at home, you have to do with what you have: grape and salt will do.

Anyway, somehow this sweet-and-sour seasoning arrived in Italy, then the emiliani made it the way we know… and we’re here, in the 21th century, and the balsamic is one of the most beloved dressing from chefs all over the State. They use it in ways you would never imagine – it’s vinegar after all! Then, well, all you have to do is taste its flavour and imagine how to use it! 

1) With strawberries.

A few drops on a strawberry bowl – they have to be real strawberries, red and juicy and in spring! – just a few drops and some vanilla ice cream and you’ve created an unforgettable break!

2) With meat. 

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All kinds of meat, honestly: I cannot imagine where Balsamic tastes poorly. On red meat, it enhances its flavour and “cleans up” a bit the greasy aftertaste, with white meat it gives them a twist and makes them much more enjoyable, with fish (lake fish) it’s the perfect mix for both the previous situation. Avoid salt if you use balsamic – it would taste too sour!

3) With cheese.

Forget honey, Balsamic is the new gourmet, and this is probably the best solution to look great with your guest. It only takes a platter, balsamic vinegar, some slice of cheese (just not too aged), a punch of nuts, a glass of red wine: you will have a classy aperitivo: tasty and classy, perfect to impress!

4) With Parmigiano Reggiano

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You might say “cheese was point 3!”, but I’m not talking about pasty cheese as before, when I imagined some fresh pecorino slice. This is about the true, the one and only Parmigiano Reggiano. They make in the same region of Balsamic – do you think it’s a coincidence? Same story here, it mustn’t be the “24 months old” or more, it has to be fresh and young, also because it’s way less salty.

5) As a lunge balm, instead of herbal compress.

Nope, just kidding. The word “balsamic” comes from Greek word “balsamon” (perfumed oil) and means only that its smell is so powerful that it might have curative effects. Not proven scientifically, though, but wouldn’t you admit to feel much better after tasting something great? So, my last tip is just this one: smell the Balsamic, and – like a little chef mouse – invent your own flavour!

 

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