Look in your pantry. I can just about guarantee you have an old bottle of balsamic vinegar just sitting there. People think of vinegar as something that goes on top of a salad, but what most people don’t realize is it is one of the best ingredients to cook with. It is so versatile and it can fit most flavor profiles. Our infused balsamic vinegars can bring so many flavors into even a simple dish.
What is Balsamic Vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar is a reduction made from grapes, but it is not considered a wine vinegar because the grape juice used is unfermented. The unfermented sweet grape juice that is used comes from Trebbiano grapes. The process of making true balsamic vinegar is a long process.
First, the grape juice is cooked slowly in a copper cauldron until it is reduced by thirty-five to fifty percent. Then, the reduction is placed into oak barrels to age. Each year, some of the vinegar evaporates, and the vinegar is transferred into a smaller barrel made of a different wood. Each wood used infuses a different flavor into the vinegar, making it more complex and interesting. And as the vinegar ages and becomes concentrated, it becomes thick, sweet, and dark.
How to Choose a Quality Balsamic Vinegar
There are two types of balsamic vinegar: the high quality kind and the cheap kind. The high quality balsamic is like a fine wine. It is a highly valuable condiment made through the laborious and lengthy process that was listed above. Then we have the cheap balsamic vinegar, which is typically sold at the grocery store. There is such a great difference between the two that the cheaper version should be labeled “vinegar with balsamic flavoring added.” In reality, it’s just wine vinegar, white vinegar, or cider vinegar, with colorings and flavorings added in order to make it taste like balsamic vinegar.
With all of these imitation balsamic vinegars out there, how do you identify what is an authentic brand?
1. Look at the Ingredient Deck
In order to know if you are dealing with an authentic balsamic vinegar, you need to start with the ingredient deck. If you don’t see the words “grape must,” then you are dealing with an imitation balsamic. Grape Must is the primary ingredient in balsamic vinegar, so anything that doesn’t have it just isn’t a true balsamic.
2. Notice the Color and Flavor
Commercial vinegars are made from wine, with added artificial colors and flavors. Real balsamic is made with nothing more than aged, pure grape juice, accounting for its sweet, not bitter flavor.
3. Buy an Aged Bottle
The age of the Balsamic Vinegar is generally associated with the quality of the product inside the bottle. The longer the product has aged, the more flavorful and complex it becomes. As balsamic ages, it loses water content, which concentrates the flavors of the cooked and fermented grape must and vinegars. Over time, the wooden barrels also contribute their own flavors to the balsamic.
At Verde Valley, we have a strict aging process with our balsamic vinegars. This allows the essence from the barrels to penetrate into the flavor of the vinegar. We invite you to order one of our balsamic vinegars online to taste the difference that a high quality, authentic balsamic vinegar can make in your dishes.