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Encyclopedia of 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.

1 Leaf
PEPPER-CRUSTED SIRLOIN
POTATOES OMELETTE


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.




SERVES 2 PERSONS:

· 1 sliced peeled potato
· olive oil for cooking
· 2 beaten eggs
· 2 coffee spoons of fresh grated Parmesan
· salt, pepper
· Acetum Balsamic Vinegar

Roast the potatoes in much oil. Mix eggs, Parmesan, salt and pepper together. Pour the mixture onto the potatoes and let it thicken on a slow fire. Cut the omelette into slices and put them on a dish. Pour drops of Acetum Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and serve.

2 Leaves
MUSHROOM PANCAKE "SHORTSTACK" WITH BALSAMIC SYRUP, SUN-DRIED TOMATO BUTTER AND SPINACH SAUCE.
ROASTED LOIN OF PORK WITH
BROWN SUGAR AND BALSAMIC GLAZE


SERVES 4 PERSONS:

Sun-dried tomato butter:
· 180g softened butter
· 3 cloves roasted garlic (recipe follows) or 2 cloves fresh garlic,· peeled and chopped finely
· 5 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
· 3 basil leaves, chopped
· 1 sprig thyme, chopped BALSAMIC SYRUP:
· 90g sugar
· 185ml water
· 90ml ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar

Mushroom pancake batter:
· 2 cups sliced raw mushrooms
· (oyster, shiitake, swiss brown)
· ½ clove garlic, peeled and chopped
· 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
· 1 egg
· 1 cup milk
· 1 cup plain flour
· 4 sun-dried tomato halves, diced
· 5 basil leaves, chopped
· 1 spring thyme, chopped
· 60g parmesan cheese, grated
· ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
· ½ teaspoon baking powder
· salt and freshly ground pepper
· oil for cooking

Spinach sauce:
· 4 spring onions, peeled and diced
· oil to sauté
· 185g spinach, washed, drained and stems removed
· 185ml vegetable or chicken stock
· 5 basil leaves
· 4 chives
· 30ml olive oil
· salt and pepper

TO SERVE: 8 to 16 swiss brown mushrooms, marinated in oil, garlic and herbs baby lettuce leaves
To make the sun-dried tomato butter: in a bowl combine all the ingredients, then roll into a log shape, cover and refrigerate until required.
To make the balsamic syrup: combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until it is a syrupy consistency, add the ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar and simmer until reduced by half. Reserve until required.
To make the mushroom pancake batter: sauté the mushrooms and garlic in the oil, then drain and reserve with the cooking juices. In a bowl whisk the egg and milk, add the flour and mix until smooth. Add the mushrooms, sun-dried tomato, herbs, parmesan, bicarbonate of soda and the baking powder. Stir until combined, add the reserved juices from the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.
To cook the pancakes: heat a lightly oiled crepe pan, pour in ¼ cup of the pancake batter, quickly rolling the pan so that the mixture covers the entire base. Cook until the underside is just brown, turn gently with a spatula and cook the other side. Remove and set aside in a warm place. As the pancakes are cooked, stack them in pairs divided by grease-proof paper. Keep warm.
To make the spinach sauce: sauté the onions in the oil over a high heat, stirring constantly. Add the spinach and toss until wilted, then remove from heat. In a food processor, blend the spinach mixture with the stock, basil and chives and, with the machine still running, add the oil in a slow drizzle. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm.
To serve: drain the marinade from the swiss brown mushrooms and cook on a char-grill, or sauté gently. Slice thinly and set aside in a warm place. Put some spinach sauce on each warmed plate, top with 2 to 3 baby lettuce leaves. Lay a pancake on the leaves, cover with sliced mushrooms, another pancake, more mushrooms and, finally, another pancake. Drizzle with balsamic syrup and a slice of sun-dried tomato butter. Serve immediately.

 


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.

3 Leaves
RABBIT WITH ACETUM BALSAMIC
VINEGAR OF MODENA
PROSCIUTTO, PARMESAN AND SAVOY CABBAGE SALAD


SERVES 4 TO 6 PERSONS:

· 1,2 Kg of ragout of rabbit
· salt
· pepper
· olive oil for roasting

Marinade:
· 1 dl of olive oil
· 1 dl of Acetum Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
· 1 coffee spoon of Red Wine Vinegar
· 1 rosemary branch
· 3 fresh laurel leaves
· 3 sage leaves
· 5 mashed berries of juniper

Blend in all the ingredients, pour the marinade on the meat and eventually put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Take the meat out of the refrigerator, dry it and put apart the marinade, then season rabbit with salt and pepper. Roast every portion of meat in a large quantity of oil, turning it frequently. Sprinkle with the marinade and cook on a slow fire for about 11/2 hour. Dress by request and add some drops of Balsamic Vinegar.

Tip: serve with steamed or roasted potatoes.

 

SERVES 6 PERSONS:

· 24 slices prosciutto
· ½ fresh Savoy cabbage
· 175ml extra virgin olive oil
· salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 140ml ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
· 300g parmesan in the piece

Use only the inner, paler leaves from the cabbage and, using large, sharp and wide-bladed knife, shave the cabbage into the finest possible shreds. (You do not need to wash the cabbage as the inside of a Savoy is so tightly packed.) Place the shreds in a bowl, and add the olive oil salt and pepper to taste. Toss together, then add the ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Break the parmesan into little pieces using a pointed knife. Ease pieces away from the main piece so that they naturally separate along the crystals that from in the cheese. The pieces should be about 2 to 3cm long and up to 5mm thick. Add to the cabbage mixture and toss. Arrange the slices of prosciutto over each plate and cover with 2 tablespoons of the cabbage and parmesan mixture. You could dribble a little extra ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar and extra virgin olive oil over each plate. Serve immediately.

4 Leaves
CHAR-GRILLED TUNA WITH CAPSICUM,
ASPARAGUS AND WASABI SAUCE
ICE-CREAM WITH ACETUM BALSAMIC
VINEGAR OF MODENA


SERVES 4 PERSONS:

· 6 par-boiled pink-eye potatoes, halved
· olive oil
· pepper and salt
· 8 asparagus spears, blanched
· 4 x 180g-200g tuna steaks
· lemon juice

To serve:
· char-grilled and marinated red and yellow capsicum slices
· ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar
· Wasabi Sauce (recipe follows)

Coat the potatoes with olive oil and season with pepper and salt. Char-grill the potatoes on a preheated grill until tender and set aside in a warm place. Briefly char-grill the asparagus and set aside with the potatoes. Season the tuna with pepper and salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Sear the steaks on a hot grill for a few minutes on each side, leaving the tuna rare in the centre.

TO SERVE:transfer the tuna steaks to heated serving plates. Add the potatoes, asparagus, and capsicum. Drizzle with a little olive oil and ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar and serve at once with Wasabi Sauce.

WASABI SAUCE (Makes about 1 cup)
· 1 clove garlic, peeled
· salt
· 1 egg yolk
· 1 tablespoon water
· 250ml olive oil
· wasabi paste, to taste
· lemon juice

With a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic to a fine paste with a pinch of salt. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the egg yolk and water. Whisk in the olive oil in a very slow, steady stream until the mixture thickens. Stir in the wasabi and lemon juice to taste, and season with extra salt if necessary.


SERVES 4 TO 6 PERSONS:

· 5 dl of cream
· 5 dl of whole milk
· 300 g of sugar
· 1 cl of ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar

Boil cream, milk and sugar. Let it cool and then put it in the ice-cream machine. As soon as the glaze has half frozen add ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar and put it again in the glaze machine for further 3-4 rounds. Put the ice-cream into a precooled container and freeze it. Tip: put the ice-cream balls in glasses and sprinkle with ACETUM Balsamic Vinegar.

 
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