Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic Vinegar can only be produced in Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy. The process of making it begins by cooking Trebbiano grape juice. This cooking reduces the water content of the juice, turning it into a syrup called must. The must is then poured into the first wooden barrel of a Solera series, mixed with an older Balsamic vinegar batch to begin the acetification process. Each year 50% of the vinegar is transferred down the line to a slightly smaller barrel, along the way acquiring some of the flavors of the different woods. The only approved woods are oak, cherry, chestnut, mulberry, acacia, juniper, and ash.

 

Commercial balsamics are made by blending traditional balsamic with simple red wine vinegar. Basically, the higher the ratio of traditional to red wine yields a higher rank. However there are many other factors, including the quality of the wine vinegar and the age of the traditional, that affect the ranking of a commercial balsamic. A "0 leaf" balsamic might be 95% red wine vinegar with a splash of traditional and some caramel coloring to give it a dark color. A "1 leaf" is much better than a "0 leaf" and is the prefect balsamic for making a salad dressing recipe.

 

At the "2 leaf" level, the sweetness of the traditional Balsamic begins to overpower the tartness of the red wine vinegar. A "2 leaf" may be too sweet for some people's tastes when used in a salad dressing. "2 leaf" Balsamics are better for use in marinades, or as a drizzle over finished dishes. A "3 leaf" is an even sweeter product - and twice the price of a "2 leaf". Its richness makes it a perfect condiment for fish, lamb or beef; either in a gravy or sauce or drizzled straight out of the bottle. A "4 leaf" is syrupy sweet with only a hint of vinegar acid. This specialty item is used as a dessert topping, drizzled over ice cream or cake. In Modena it is popular to drizzle it over Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese as a dessert too.

 

Before the advent of the leaf system, there was a lot of confusion about Balsamic Vinegar. It can be very confusing staring at a shelf with $5 bottles sitting right next to $20 bottles. As we all know, price is not always an indication of quality, so be sure to look for the leaves!

 

Recipes

Balsamic Vinegar of Modena can enhance the flavour of every recipe. From hors d'oeuvre, to main courses and side dishes or fruit: it is appreciated on everything and, according to the use, you'll have to take care to choose the right one. Here are our suggestions, with recipes prepared basing on the classification system used by Acetum.

PEPPER-CRUSTED SIRLOIN

SERVES 6 PERSONS:

· 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
· 3 teaspoons sea salt
· 1 tablespoon olive oil
· 600g piece sirloin, fat intact

Mediterranean Salad:
· 3 Roma tomatoes, quartered, seeded
· 1 each red and green capsicum, halved and seeded
· ½ telegraph cucumber, quartered lengthwise and seeded
· 4 marinated artichoke hearts
· 1 red onion, peeled
· 2 cloves garlic, crushed
· ½ cup torn flat-leaf parsley
· 150ml extra-virgin olive oil
· 60ml ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar
· salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Make a paste with the pepper, salt and olive oil. Score the fat on the sirloin in a cross-hatched fashion. Rub the pepper oil into the fat, working it in deeply between the cuts. Preheat a heavy-based pan over low-medium heat and add the sirloin, fat-side down. Leave the meat for about 20 minutes, to allow the fat to render. Increase the heat and turn the sirloin over to brown the other side. Drain, transfer to the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, then remove and set aside to rest.

To make the salad: cut the vegetables into similar sized pieces and place in a bowl with the garlic and parsley. Whisk the olive oil, ACETUM balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Toss until the ingredients are well coated, checking the seasoning.

 

TO SERVE: spoon the salad onto the centre of each serving plate. Slice the warm sirloin thinly and put 2 slices on top of each salad. Add some Ligurian olives to each plate and serve at once.

ROASTED LOIN OF PORK WITH BROWN SUGAR AND BALSAMIC GLAZE

SERVES 6 TO 8 PERSONS:

· about 2 ¼ kg loin pork boned and skinned
· freshly ground pepper
· 6 slices prosciutto
· about 30 young fresh basil leaves
· 1 cup water
· ½ cup ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar
· 1 cup light brown sugar

 

TO PREPARE :Preheat the oven to 160°C. Spread out the loin, fat side down and sprinkle lightly with pepper. Lay the sliced prosciutto along the centre of the meat and cover evenly with the basil leaves. Roll the loin firmly, securing first with skewers and then tying with kitchen string. Put the prepared loin on a rack in a baking pan and add the water to the pan. Roast on the centre shelf of the oven for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours (depending on the thickness of the loin). Mix the ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar with the brown sugar. Remove the loin from the oven, drain the liquid from the pan, then strain and add to the balsamic syrup. Pour the balsamic mixture over the loin and continue to roast for 30 minutes, basting every 10 minutes with the syrup. Remove from the oven, baste again and rest for 15 minutes, covered loosely with aluminium foil, before serving.

 

TO SERVE: put the loin on a serving plate, reheat the syrup, removing excess grease if necessary, and serve the loin in thin slices with a little of the syrup and some grilled or fried polenta. This loin of pork is delicious served at room temperature with cooled syrup, and with a simple green salad. Mustard fruits are another good accompaniment. It is an excellent dish for a buffet or for large numbers of people. A rolled, skinned, boned loin or skinned standing loin can also be cooked in this manner, basted with the balsamic syrup, but without the prosciutto and basil.

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