What is Balsamic Vinegar? Most likely known as the standard staple nestled in the back of your pantry reserved for the occasional tomato basil salad, balsamic vinegar is a unique piece of Italy’s history. The ancient Romans believed that cooked grape mash, or must (the main component of balsamic vinegar) was more than a dressing for foods: it was also a healing elixir. Even the name “balsamic” refers to the original medicinal purpose of this alleged restorative “balm,” indicating its place in ancient society as a tonic.
Much like champagne, the most authentic balsamic vinegar comes solely from the Reggio Emilia and Modena regions of Italy. The two areas have been perfecting the art of this dressing and condiment since the year 1100, when Balsamic Vinegar was a popular gift for visiting royalty and nobility.
People tend to use less of a high-quality balsamic vinegar compared to lower quality variety to achieve a similar flavor intensity.
How to Choose the Best Balsamic Vinegar
There’s no shortage of balsamic vinegar options in your neighborhood grocery store, and with a plethora of culinary uses, choosing the best balsamic vinegar is no easy task. When searching for your pick, here’s what to keep an eye out for:
- PGI Certification. PGI (or, “Protected Geographic Origin”) Certification is set by the European Union to validate a product’s adherence to local heritage. To earn a PGI ( or, in Italian, IGP) certification, at least one or more steps of the preparation process must occur in the region, and the ingredients used must be closely connected to the area. A PGI Certification maintains the integrity and authenticity of the product.
- Ingredient Quality. When it comes to Italian-inspired cooking, authenticity and quality of ingredients are key. Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients will let the natural flavor of the product shine through.
- Area of Origin. Similar to the PGI Certification, true Balsamic Vinegar will be from or somehow connected to Modena or Emilio Reggia, Italy. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-balsamic-vinegar-balsamic-vs-other-vinegars-and-how-to-use-balsamic-vinegar#2-types-of-balsamic-vinegar
- Taste. Depending on the variation of vinegar you select, tastes will vary. Traditional balsamic vinegar will have a certain smoky quality, due to it’s extended aging process, while Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is more tangy and sweet.
How Is Balsamic Vinegar Made?
Traditional balsamic vinegar is made in the Emilio Reggia or Modena regions of Italy, and begins by cooking grape mash (must). It is then brought through a series of fermentations and aged in a wooden barrel. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043452609580047
Aged Balsamic Vinegar
The aging process differs depending on the type of balsamic. For traditional balsamic vinegars, at least 12 years aging is required, with many being aged for over 25 years. Talk about patience! Balsamic vinegar of Modena, one of the most versatile variants, is only aged for two months. As you might expect, the aging process affects the taste and texture. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-balsamic-vinegar-balsamic-vs-other-vinegars-and-how-to-use-balsamic-vinegar#2-types-of-balsamic-vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena: Why It Matters
A type of balsamic vinegar you might already be using or have seen stocked in market shelves, is Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena refers to not only the origin of its creation, but also the origin of the ingredients used to make it. More widely available, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has a wide range of culinary uses. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is slow-cooked, for a distinct flavor profile of sweet and sour, with a thicker, syrup-like consistency.
Primal Kitchen®’s recently launched Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is PGI Certified and made with Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients, for a high-quality, flavor-forward take that maintains Italian authenticity.
Balsamic Vinegar Uses
- Dressing for salads
- Marinade for meats
- Glaze for roasted vegetables
- Reduction, to bring out the sweetness and change the texture
- Personalized homemade vinaigrette
How to Make Easy Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette
Who doesn’t love a vinaigrette to dress up salads and charcuterie? A good rule of thumb to follow is a oil and vinegar dressing ratio of 3 to 1.
Here’s a basic balsamic vinaigrette recipe:
- 1/4 cup Primal Kitchen® balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup Primal Kitchen® extra virgin olive oil or PK avocado oil
- 1 tbsp Primal Kitchen® dijon
- Salt and pepper to taste
From there, make it your own! Add a clove of garlic, a drizzle of honey, a pinch of herbs, a squeeze of lemon etc.
The only sure way that you know your dressing will be on point every time? Skip the mixing and use Primal Kitchen® Balsamic Vinaigrette & Marinade.