Authentic Balsamic Vinegar

Posted at 9:59am on May 05, 2017

There is nothing better than Balsamic vinegar. More than just a condiment for salads or marinades, it is an art that is centuries old. Earliest historic references to the use of balsamic vinegar date back to the 1047 AD. Balsamic is thicker, richer, and sweeter than any other vinegar in the world. Authentic Balsamic Vinegar can only be labeled such if it is produced by a specific set of criteria. It must be aged at least 12 years, according to traditional methods, and native to a specific region of Northern Italy. These factors produce vinegar that is truly original. It is a process which takes a great deal of time, quality ingredients, and care. In the modern world, fast and cost effective are the mantras of many food producers. Some can try to add thickeners, sugar, or reduce lower quality vinegar to sweeten it. It is a failed attempt to replicate authentic flavors, but a trained pallet and informed customer can easily spot the difference. Knowing that a product speaks true of its quality is important. That is why such strict standards of labeling are necessary. Misleading labels and counterfeit vinegar can be common. So, let's explore the criteria of authenticity that make balsamic vinegar what it is.

How is Traditional Balsamic Vinegar Made?

The process starts with a reduction of cooked white Trebbiano and Lambrusco grape juice which many refer to as grape must. This is then transferred to oak, hickory, and mulberry barrels to begin the aging process. The barrels are crucial to the rich, thick, and sweet characteristics of balsamic vinegar. They lend the vinegar slight flavor profiles from their wood. They are slightly breathable to allow water evaporation, and they contain specific beneficial bacteria which slowly ferment the grape must. The must starts in large barrels, and is transferred over time to a series of progressively smaller barrels as the process of fermentation evaporates water. The evaporation of water over time also lends balsamic its viscosity. Typically the Longer a balsamic is aged, the thicker it will be. After the largest barrel is emptied to the next smaller size, a fresh batch of grape must continues the "stair-step" or progressive process. This clever method allows for continuous production of vinegar.

Twisted Trunk carries authentic balsamic. As I mentioned earlier, to be labeled a true Balsamic Condimento the product must be aged according to traditional methods for a minimum of 12 years. It must also come from the specific Emilio-Romagna, Modena regions or northern Italy. In order to insure this is the case the European Union came up with a standard for authenticity. Twisted Trunk Vinegars are all considered PGI certified. This stands for protected geographical indication, and authenticates product is produced with heritage/traditional methods in its stated location. Twisted Trunk Vinegar is PGI certified from Modena Italy. In the case of vinegar, where it comes from makes a big difference. This is because it is more than just food, it is their heritage and way of life.

A little about Modena Italy

Modena is a city located south east of Parma, in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.

Italy's diversity in cuisine depends largely on geographical location. For example, the Southern region of Italy is known for using olive oil, tomato sauce, seafood, and pasta. The Northern region is known for using cream sauces, polenta, and stuffed meats. Each city within those regions has its own "claim to fame" and contribution to the mosaic of what we know has "Italian food". Italians pride themselves on their age old customs. Each region has its own tradition to brag about. The Emilia-Romagna region is known for its use of time to add flavor and depth to foods. In particular this is the only region where authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano and Balsamic vinegar come from. This region understands the slow process of aging, creating specialties that can reach as many as 50 years. The traditional way of aging and fermentation that have been mastered here are exclusive to this area. It is more than a method for making food, Italian cuisine is philosophy. It is said that everything moves slower in this part of the world. The attitude towards food spills into all areas of life. Modena seethes with the ideology of "savor the moment". It reveals to us that time provides complexity, depth, and joy in a way no other process can. Authenticity speaks for itself. We always hear the phrase "often imitated, never duplicated". This whole heartily applies to balsamic vinegar. So, check the label, look for PGI certified, and authentically enjoy.

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