Balsamic Vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a sweet smelling vinegar made from the pure and unfermented (non alcoholic) juice of grape called the "must." Although different varieties of grapes can be used to create this timeless treat, the Trebbiano grape, native to Modena, Italy, is the most widely known. Other varieties of grapes sometimes used to make great balsamic include the Ancellotta, Lumbrusco, and Sauvignon.

True, gourmet balsamic is slowly aged in wooden barrels. Each manufacturer has its own process and formula for aging the vinegar, moving it from one type of wood barrel to another to create its own signature flavor. Some of the more commonly used woods to make the barrels are ash, cherry, oak, juniper, and chestnut.

Commercial grade balsamic vinegar is made to copy true balsamic. They are made from wine vinegar with coloring and thickeners added, there is no aging involved hundreds of gallons can be produced each day. Also, Sulphites may be used as a preservative.

The process of making authentic balsamic begins by boiling the grape juice until it becomes a thick syrup. It is then transferred to the wooden barrels to start the aging process. This can take from 6 months to several years. The balsamic vinegars sold in your average grocery store are probably only aged for a few months in stainless steel tanks.

Most vinegars can be used in cooking or as a tangy salad dressing and is often used as a replacement for cooking wines because it provides similar flavoring. It is commonly cooked with chicken or sauteed vegetables. Balsamic vinaigrette dressings may also contain olive oil and seasonings such as basil and garlic. Balsamic vinegar can also be added to foods, such as spinach, after cooking to create a unique seasoning. Leaf ratings.

You might see that some traditional balsamic vinegars have leaves on their labels. This is a rating system that ranks quality on a one- to four-leaf scale, with four leaves being the best. You can use the leaf ranking as a guide for how to use the vinegar. For instance, one-leaf balsamic would be appropriate for salad dressing, while four-leaf vinegar would be best used a few drops at a time to season a dish right before serving.

Vinegar notes:

• Many less expensive vinegars contain sulphites check the label.

• Heat boils out acidity and sweetens balsamic vinegar

• Do not use aluminum pots or pans, use non reactive cookware.

• Use sparingly in recipes, to much can ruin a dish.

• Drizzle over fresh strawberries or pears. Great in vinaigrettes and sauces.

• Watch for a “proposition 65 warning” on commercial vinegars in the grocery store due to suspected lead contents from European Balsamics.

Why is there lead in the vinegar?

I have encountered two explanations of this, the first being that lead gets into vinegar during the process of manufacturing, and the other being that wine grapes suck lead up out of the ground. There seems to be some bias behind both of these explanations, leaving us, the consumer, with only the fact that there is enough lead in red wine vinegar and balsamic's to merit the proposition 65 warning.

In 2004, a lawsuit was filed under the Environmental Law Foundation of Oakland, demanding that the public be alerted by these signs in the grocery store.

With so few laws currently protecting Americans from eating harmful substances, it is little wonder that the majority of the public has not yet learned to take this issue seriously. But here in California, we’ve been given a genuine warning. At least we now have the choice to buy or not to buy a product that is being labeled as toxic.

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